After plenty of developmental shenanigans, Oscar winning duo, director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), managed to get a second Steve Jobs biopic-ish feature over the ever-crowded Hollywood production line. Following in the not-so-fearsome footsteps of 2013’s timidly surface deep Ashton Kutcher-starring snoozer Jobs, Boyle and Sorkin’s dramatically superior effort smashes away any lingering memories of Joshua Michael Stern’s damp squib.
“Musicians play their instruments, I play the orchestra,” declared Apple’s most famous CEO as he stamped his unruly authority on the stage he was about to deliver his first career-defining pitch on to declare the awesome-ness of the iMac. A man who demanded control, with an unhealthy dose of perfectionism – vehemently arguing over smiling computer screens and shark pictures – he was the tech giant’s conductor and everyone else, rightly or wrongly, played to his tune.
Focusing on three separate product launches – the Macintosh (the failure), NeXT (the revenge) and iMac (the comeback) – the film meticulously follows Jobs, played by a marvellously theatrical Michael Fassbender, Birdman-esque through the crowded corridors of backstage areas of rather fancy looking theatres as he prepares to unveil his latest vision to an expecting world.
In his wake lie five key figures who rinse out the best and worst of technology’s most colourful character. Kate Winslet’s marketing expert/’work wife’, Joanna Hoffman, appears to be Jobs’ confidante – and the only person to be able to knock some sense into his unruly skull. BFF Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), like the clever kid who does the bullies homework, and Michael Stuhlbarg’s often-disgruntled computer whiz Andy Hertzfeld, epitomise the ground floor frustration of their master’s no-holds-barred vision. Father-figure and hand-picked CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), meanwhile, receives the ambitious wrath of the man himself, whilst estranged daughter, Lisa Brennan, brings out an emotional development we’d not previously seen from our unruly protagonist.
Is it all true? Not likely – a dramatization of Jobs’ life is the pre-release spiel we’ve received from the filmmakers and stars. Yet, whether real or not, this captures the essence of a man, his ego and public persona – through expertly orchestrated interplay and an eye-catching central performance – that makes, regardless of anything else, for a technologically gratifying piece of work.
Steve Jobs delves far deeper than its lame duck predecessor, trying to add a layer of rhyme and reason to the Apple madness centring around one all-consuming individual. Though topical areas – such as his childhood and the discussion over his biological parents – feel lightly skimmed over in comparison to other issues, it’s a feature that certainly goes big on spectacle, with atmospheric late night emergency meeting showdowns between the board and Jobs, or his shout-off with a pissed off Wozniak, ramping up the theatrical level to max volume.
Boyle and Sorkin, washing over proceedings with plenty of style and flamboyance, have captured the ethos of a man revered for showmanship and infinite detail. Fassbender – seemingly a dead-cert for an Oscar nomination – pulls off the turtle neck and knocks his portrayal of the enigmatic Jobs out of the stratosphere.