STEVE JOBS. Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, and Sarah Snook. Directed by Danny Boyle. Rated M (Coarse language and mature themes). 122 min.
This American biographical drama is based loosely on the life of Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple. The film is inspired by the 2011 biography of the same name by Walter Isaacson. It goes behind the Apple Company to paint an absorbing picture of Steve Jobs, the man who was at its creative centre. Steve Jobs has been the subject of several films, mostly documentaries named after him. This is the first mainstream feature film of his life.
The movie is divided into three distinct parts, representing three different product launches that were hosted by Jobs. The first part shows Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) and Apple marketing Executive, Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) at the Apple Macintosh launch in1984. The second part shows Jobs preparing for his computer launch of NeXT in 1988. The third part shows Jobs preparing to introduce the Apple iMac in 1998, which is the product widely regarded as restoring Apple's marketing and business reputation. Seth Rogen appears as Shane Wozniak, co-founder of Apple (with Jobs). Jeff Daniels plays John Sculley, former CEO of Apple, and Australia's Sarah Snook plays Andrea Cunningham, who helped in the launch of the Apple iMac.
This is a thought-provoking and well-produced movie that illustrates and analyses the contribution and personality of Jobs through the lenses of the launches of three computer products. Flashbacks are used to illustrate Jobs' personal life. The movie is not at all a routine biography. It captures dramatically and effectively the creative energy that motivated Jobs, personally and professionally. It projects a vision of someone who made personalised computing widely available to almost everyone. In doing so, it demystifies the man, and shows the enormous personal energy and human effort it took to achieve Apple's digital fame.
There is relatively little action in the movie and a lot of conversation, but the movie gives fascinating insights into a man, who had a number of surprising ups and downs. Steve Jobs co-founded Apple in his home garage in 1976, was fired by Apple in 1985, and returned to Apple more than a decade later to rescue it from bankruptcy. Single-handedly, he arguably created the world's most successful computing company. Through multiple flashback scenes, and stage performances at various product launches, the film projects a complex fusion of creativity, personality, and productivity that characterised Steve Jobs as a person, but it also exposes a man, who was difficult, exasperating, patronising, ambitious, driven exclusively by what he considered important, not liked by many, but brilliant and charismatic. In Job's own words, "musicians play the instruments, I play the orchestra", and " as long as you have control, I don't understand people giving up". Jobs died by cancer in 2011.
Fassbender is one of the finest actors working in cinema today. He took the lead role in "Macbeth" (2015), "Shame" (2011), and "Hunger" (2009), and he brings to the character of Jobs a fierce, relentless, driving energy that colours every gesture and word. He is supported wonderfully well by Kate Winslet (who received a Golden Globe Award for her performance as Joanna Hoffman), and by Seth Rogen, and Jeff Daniels. But it is Fassbender's movie. He is magnificent.
Danny Boyle's decision to present Steve Jobs in a three-part format is an intriguing one. His choice of device nicely captures Jobs' essential drive, showmanship and business acumen, but one suspects Boyle took some creative licence as he tried to fit actual events to a three-act scenario.
This is an entertaining and highly absorbing movie that is particularly well-acted and directed. It tackles diverse significant themes such as the need for an open or closed system in computer design, reconciliation of a father (Jobs) with an alienated daughter, Governing Board direction at a high level that fails, and a flawed computer genius who survives. It tells you not quite as much as you would like to know about Jobs as a creative individual, but offers the viewer a dramatically forceful interpretation of a person Apple concluded it could not survive without. For Fassbender's performance alone, as is usual for all his films, this is a movie well worth seeing.
Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
Universal Pictures International
Released February 4th., 2016