DANNY Boyle documents the career of Steve Jobs with an Aaron Sorkin-penned script in a generally interesting eponymous biopic that explores the highs and lows of one of modern history’s iconic innovators.
The film plays as a three-act structure giving behind-the-scenes looks of product launches across 1984, 1988 and 1998 involving Apple co-founder Jobs (a convincing Michael Fassbender) alongside marketing executive and close friend Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet).
The first documents the launch of the Macintosh and the problems that are faced by the team when the Macintosh’s voice fails to work, with only minutes before Jobs is due on stage in front of as packed audience. Whilst ordering his engineer to fix the problem, he also has to contend with a visit from an ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) and their daughter Lisa, who Jobs almost obsessively states is not his, at least officially.
Fast-forwarding four years, a montage reveals the events that led to the launch of Jobs’s latest innovation, the NeXT computer. This one follows his interaction with Lisa mixed with separate intense conversations with fellow Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) and then-Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels).
The film delivers a second montage of events in the ensuing decade (footage from The Simpsons to Bill Gates), culminating in the iMac launch whilst Jobs deals with long-lasting dilemmas involving friends, colleagues and his now grown-up daughter.
Is this an interesting look at the important stages in the career of Steve Jobs? Yes, it is. Is it a film that needs to be seen by everyone? No, it is not.
The best thing the film does, like with Sorkin’s previous written film credit Moneyball, is show, like with baseball, you don’t have to possess any knowledge nor have a care for the subject in place to enjoy it. The film is ultimately a dialogue-heavy look at the mind of a slightly difficult yet determined individual and it is down to the actors to form the interest and sustain it, which they do for the most part.
By the end of the film, we know how it is going to end, a tactic that much too frequently prevents biopics from becoming flat-out masterpieces. It is however through a well-directed duo of montages that the film illustrates the unexpected and allows for several intense conversations that Jobs engages with people who probably know Jobs better than he does.
During each act, Jobs finds himself in the company of Wozniak and Sculley on different occasions. The best of these gatherings comes in the second act where a peaceful conversation between Jobs and the latter gradually escalates into a war of words, heard secretly by Hoffman. What makes this sequence the best of the film is the juxtaposition of flashbacks from between the four years which document how Sculley and Jobs’ alliance resulted in such fallout come 1988. Fassbender and Daniels make for an interesting show of two men whose attitudes towards each other as the film progresses tell a completely different story to the one that was seen in the first act.
The film does not succeed at maintaining firm interest throughout with the first act peaking with its engagement of the whole part. The second act only really becomes interesting once Sculley becomes involved while the third, and longer, act is a welcoming yet more personal exploration than professional.
Fassbender himself is convincing throughout, expressing well-timed sarcasm and determination towards someone who knew would make world history one day. Though the film does not portray him as the kindest individual nor the most considerate, Jobs however earns the viewer’s hope that he can succeed with his project/s thanks to putting our trust into him.
Winslet, disguising herself with a brunette wig and glasses, impresses too in her role as Hoffman, someone who seems to know Jobs more than he does. She sees and hears so much that sometimes it is as if we are interested in her rather than Jobs himself.
For what it is, Steve Jobs succeeds, not in ways that win Oscars, but enough thanks to a talented cast who create an interest with help from Sorkin’s words and Boyle’s overtly stylish but bearable direction.