Reviewed by Daniel Janks: actor, creative director, writer, cynic, father, husband. He was born in 1977 and has still not died. He loves many things, chief among which are his mythic wife and odd girl-child. Visit his website.
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Aaron Sorkin
Cast : Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Michael Stuhlbarg
AGE RESTRICTION: [R]
It’s not a kids movie, but there’s nothing in it that’ll make them cry.
Five out of five says it all. This movie is fantastic. It’s as good as you might expect it to be penned by Aaron Sorkin, directed by Danny Boyle and staring such an amazing cast. It’s very rare that I am not disappointed by a movie that I’m deeply excited to see. But this one did not let me down. Its only failing was it ended too quickly. I just wanted more!
You know how a film will start at point A, and then slowly make its way through points B, and C and so on until it winds its way through to point Z, the end? How it’ll slowly build narrative and character allowing us to gradually get to know the people we’re watching and the story we’re absorbing?
Not so much with Steve Jobs. This film has three scenes. That’s it, just three. They are flavoured with a smattering of flashbacks which are really just images and glimpses into the past, rather than actual scenes. Does three sound a little thin? Far from it. The film is really a trilogy of chapters, each allowing us to get a little closer to the genius/man/monster who was Steve Jobs.
The chapters all take place in the 15 minutes or so before the curtains go up on three pivotal product launches in Jobs’ career. The launches themselves are interestingly chosen. One might expect the iPod, Macbook and iPhone taking centre stage, these are after all, historically, Apple’s most successful products. But rather we see the original Macintosh computer, the Next Cube, and the iMac launches.
The reasons for these, perhaps puzzling, choices become clear quickly as we realise that, as the title suggests, this film is about a man, not a company, a person, not a the technology he brought to the world, and these launches were perhaps his hardest, rather than his most successful.
In a similar twist to the number of scenes in the film, Steve Jobs only has a handful of characters. Each chapter sees the same tight circle of people entering and reentering Jobs’ life as he breaks and makes relationships along the way. These scant few people are wonderfully portrayed by their respective performers and the ‘satellite’ performances that orbit the lead are perfect, each and every one.
Michael Stuhlbarg, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Katherine Waterston all deliver stellar performances. The cherry on the cake goes to Kate Winslet who is the most consistent presence depicted in Job’s life. Her Joanna Hoffman, Jobs’ always at hand PA/Marketing Manager/Social Buffer, is a strong and nuanced counterpoint to a Jobs who seems most often a little perplexed by other people’s concepts of gradations of choice in the world.
Ultimately though, the film revolves around a central figure. Michael Fassbender is iridescent as Steve Jobs. In counterpoint to Ashton Kutcher’s portrayal of Steve Jobs in the 2013 Jobs, Fassbender manages to bring a gentle quiet to this character famous for his steam and bull-headed determination. Fassbender’s Jobs is seldom angry, seldom malicious, seldom the barrelling force majeure he’s often made out to be. Rather he brings a quiet, quite soft confusion to the man who seems to struggle with a world he sees filled with answers, and populated by people who see only questions.
Directing and writing
Helmed by two of the finest talents working in film and television today, Steve Jobs was always going to be good. But in one of those rare and magical co-minglings what was destined to be good has come to be great. I can’t help but draw parallels to Sorkin’s previous film The Social Network, directed by another major force in contemporary film, David Fincher. Another example of great minds coming together to create something superb, and also a film about a mad genius who spearheaded the technological/digital revolution. Both films are classic Sorkin. Heavily dialogue driven, heavily ensemble based, heavily canted towards the cerebral, rather than the more common physical, action based films of the industry. And by action I don’t only mean things blowing up, but rather the focus on what happens to – rather than what is said, thought and felt by – the characters.
All his films (Steve Jobs, Moneybag, The Social Network, Charlie Wilson’s War) and his television (The Newsroom, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, The West Wing) feel uniquely Sorkin. Each flavoured by the respective directors that helm the projects. In TV this makes sense. Today TV has evolved into the medium of choice for many industry greats. And the model under which they work is focused on the show-runner, the creator and motivating force behind the project, who oversees all the aspects of the production and drives the creative process. But film has traditionally been understood to be the work of the director, obviously in collaboration with the producers and writers, but driven by the director. And while Sorkin’s films unmistakably show the strong and clear hands of their directors, it feels to me that they are driven by his vision, always to their credit. Perhaps the show runner will make the jump to the big screen, as so much big talent has jumped to the small one.
Steve Jobs is unquestionably a thinking person’s film. It’s wordy, sometimes frenetically paced, and atypical in its construction and format. But it’s simply brilliant. So go see it, even if you usually only like to watch things blow up.