Steve Jobs Review
Michael ‘He’s so hot right now’ Fassbender takes centre stage in Danny Boyle’s wildly wordy adaptation of Walter Isaacson’s eponymous book. We follow Jobs in the build-up to three iconic product launches: the Macintosh in 1984 (featuring Ridley Scott’s historic commercial), the NeXTcube in 1988 and finally the iMac, ten years later.
Perhaps it’s the lack of frequent collaborators Anthony Dod Mantle and Underworld, or that Jobs relies so much on mind over matter, but I found little to identify it as ‘a Danny Boyle film'. One imagines that a film rooted in the development of artistry, technology and the marriage thereof would be a veritable playground for stylistic choices, but Boyle has kept himself restrained.
Only the decisions to shoot each of the three key Apple launches in a different film format and some occasional special effects interwoven with the live action footage veer towards a clear visual identity, but mostly go un-noticed. Instead, the visceral vim and vigour is saved for Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay, a monumentally mouthy monster that sweeps up everyone in a cavalcade of quips and one-liners.
It’s a definite testament to Fassbender’s acting chops that believing everything flying from his mouth could have been spoken by Jobs himself was, remarkably, very easy. The issue that our leading man looks very little like his subject was also bypassed to great effect by everyone else around him building up a palpable aura of reputation, whether they fell on the side of respect, irritation or somewhere in the middle.
Nowhere is this more keenly felt than by respective interactions with aide Joanna Hoffman (the incomparable Kate Winslet), boss John Sculley (Jeff Daniels side-steps into view from his similarly corporate role in The Martian) and ex-partner Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston adding to her ever-impressive résumé). Seth Rogen finally gets his act together as Steve Wozniak, Jobs’ long-suffering co-founder; simultaneously withdrawn (lurking across the way from his old friend) and furiously dedicated to the cause (desperate for his contribution to be recognised), he looms large over all three launches.
As much as I appreciate Sorkin’s faith in the ability of the audience to keep up when dropped into the middle of everything, the constant to-ing and fro-ing between characters with little to no pause for thought is wearing. Such a sharply-worded story should thrill, not tire. By the time we reach the final iMac launch – easily the finest act of the trio – it’s a relief that Sorkin dedicates a minute or two to quiet, contemplative vignettes (and to give composer Daniel Pemberton’s subtle score a moment in the sun) before the invigorating epilogue.
Boyle and Sorkin’s film has bite and provides a juicy range of lead players, but fails to reach the core. As Wozniak says in reply to another of Jobs’ grandiose, posturing statements; ‘it sounds great but doesn’t mean anything’.