Those expecting a conventional biopic will be disappointed by Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs. This is an energetic look at Jobs, through an unconventional film yet it’s not a film for the masses. It’s a character piece, one made even more impressive by Michael Fassbender’s splendid turn as Steve Jobs.
Eschewing narrative convention, Boyle’s film takes place in the moments before three big product launches, skipping through time to show Jobs at pivotal moments in his life. We begin in 1984, move to 1988 and conclude in 1998 on the cusp of Jobs’ i-revolution. Aaron Sorkin’s script is a series of ‘walk-and-talks’, and the dialogue is brimming with plot points and detail. Michael Fassbender looks nor sounds nothing like the real Steve Jobs – but that’s okay. Often films based on real people feel like cartoonish caricatures, relying on elaborate prosthetics and silly character ticks. Fassbender embodies everything about Jobs without having to cloud him with theatrics – he’s able to show us the man’s skill, power and ego.
Steve Jobs gets across the man’s career highs and lows, showing how Apple went from success to failure, before rising from the ashes to change the face of music and telecommunications forever. We never get to see any of this – it’s all bubbling under the surface and is the subtext from Sorkin’s playful script. This isn’t about technology, but it’s about how technology comes to be, not just the creative but the marketing and selling. Steve Jobs may not have been an innovator, but he was a showman and he wanted nothing but perfection at each launch.
Fassbender is the star of the show, but the supporting cast also excel. Jeff Daniels is excellent as Steve Jobs’ father figure and mentor, the man who Jobs felt was responsible for his firing from Apple in the 1980s. Seth Rogen is also a stand-out as the bear-like Steve Wozniak, Apple’s co-founder and Jobs’ longtime friend. Kate Winslet is good – but not as great as some would lead you to believe as Joanna Hoffman, Jobs’ longtime marketing manager.
In many ways Steve Jobs is much like an Apple product. It’s exceptionally good looking (Boyle shot the film using 16mm, 35mm and digital to give each time period a unique look), uncluttered and innovative. It may follow the traditional biopic format of rise, fall and rebirth but it’s done in such an impressive way that it feels fresh. And that’s what Steve Jobs was all about – taking existing concepts and making them feel brand new.
Steve Jobs comes with an impressive array of extras. A 45 minute ‘making-of’ has exceptional detail, while you get two commentaries: one from director Danny Boyle and a second from Aaron Sorkin and editor Elliot Graham.