In 2013, US screenwriter Joshua Michael Stern directed Ashton Kutcher in a biopic about former Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Met with lacklustre reviews, it has been dismissed as ‘the biggest, flashiest piece of fan fiction’ by a former Apple employee. Now, Trainspotting director Danny Boyle and Social Network screenwriter Aaron Sorkin have created another, more intimate dramatisation of Jobs with an impressive cast.
Steve Jobs follows the eponymous former CEO, played by Michael Fassbender, before three significant product launches from 1984 to 1998. Prior to each launch, Jobs has to contend with personal and professional struggles, as he experiences the definitive highs and lows in his career.
The film combines polished visuals with a theatre-like direction, as Boyle’s precision, impressive SteadiCam shots and corridor scenes reminiscent of his earlier work, collectively create an absorbing chamber film with three 40min scenes shot in real-time, flowing at a constant pace. Even the transition from 16mm to digital high-definition runs parallel to Jobs’ career progression, highlighting a clever trick in visuals. Complemented by Sorkin’s quick-witted and occasionally funny script, both perfectly capture Jobs’ arrogance, painting him as an ‘untouchable’ genius who shouldn’t be challenged.
In terms of the cast, Michael Fassbender commands the screen from the outset, verbally taking down anyone who questions him. The supporting cast has their fair share of screen time and together with Fassbender, they create the most explosive, sharp-tongued scenes in the film.
As well as being his ‘work’ family, each represents a different role in Jobs’ life; confidant Hoffman (Kate Winslet) is his voice of reason, Apple co-founder Wozniak (Seth Rogen) his technological rival, and the then-Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels) his competitor for control. Each actor plays a key role throughout the three acts of Jobs’ life, bringing out passion and strength of character in each sniping interaction.
On the flip side, his ex-girlfriend Chrisann (Katherine Waterston) and his daughter Lisa (Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo, and Makenzie Moss) receive less than warm reception as they take Jobs’ harsh words personally, representing the more human side to his character. This contrast shows the difference in his persona, even more so with the fact that he spends less time with his family than his ‘work’ family.
When there is a project about one of the biggest pioneers in modern technology, there is a fear of an incomplete story and how Jobs will come across. While Sorkin based the film on Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs, he fictionalised most of the events, stating that it is more a dramatisation, rather than a biopic.
In the case of Steve Jobs, Boyle and Sorkin paint him as an unpleasant, egotistical and unapologetic jerk, with an almost magnetic presence. Coupled with a neat script, great visuals and a brilliant supporting cast, it is outstanding.
Steve Jobs is out in UK cinemas on 13th November.
Director: Danny Boyle, Aaron Sorkin (scr.)
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Katherine Waterston, Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo, Makenzie Moss, Michael Stuhlbarg
Runtime: 122 minutes