Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Katherine Waterston and Michael Stuhlbarg
Running Time: 122 minutes
Release Date: November 13th
TV has long been the writer’s medium with directors king in cinema. Aaron Sorkin tends to eschew that tradition with his bombastic dialogue and manic-chatter overshadowing those behind the camera — except Fincher, no one out-bombasts Fincher. He’s an unabashed white man of power who relishes nothing more than examining other white men of power; be they US presidents, self-important news anchors, sports iconoclasts or poke-empire builders. His take on the the cult of Steve Jobs was an inevitability.
Rather than take the cradle to grave approach, Sorkin frames Steve Jobs around the backstage of three product launches — the Macintosh, NeXt and iMac — with people from his past, present and future fleeting in and out like A Christmas Carol set in Silicon Valley. There’s without doubt a Scrooge side to Jobs, a miserly man who, although worth billions, won’t pay more than the court ordered amount in child support to his daughter. The narrative follows to the same conclusion, except instead of a cooked goose for everyone, Jobs wants to put your music library in your pocket.
The pace is frenetic, you’re airdropped straight into a crisis of the Macintosh not saying ‘hello’ on startup and considering the action takes place almost explicitly in halls and backstages of large auditoriums, it never relents. Sorkin cherrypicks from Walter Isaacson’s biography but is more interested in taking his own approach, synthesising a lifetime of relationships into three scenes. He’s most interested in Jobs’ relationship with his estranged daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs, who had refused to speak to Isaacson for the book but spoke at length to Sorkin. Jobs is portrayed as enigmatic but flawed with his relationship with Lisa serving as his redemption arc.
As a vessel for Sorkin-speak, the cast excel — perhaps aside the slightly underused Rogen. Fassbender carries the assured confidence and nasty streak of Jobs well, even when his muscular Hollywood frame is swamped by polo neck, dad jeans and tennis shoes. He’s cocksure in his delivery of flaunting lines — “there are two great moments in history: the Allies win and today” — but shows enough to show the side of a man who self-confesses to being “poorly made.” Winslet works well in that rare-of-parts, a moderately well-written female character in an Aaron Sorkin script. As Joana Huffman, Jobs’ no-bullshit marketing executive who followed him from Apple to NeXt, Winslet makes Huffman Jobs’ equal and the only one who can really pull him into line, all delivered in an non-hammy Polish lilt.
This is undoubtedly Sorkin’s movie, one in which helmer Danny Boyle was ushered into after previous directorial and studio shifts. Visually, it shows. Boyle, cinematographer Alwin H. Küchler and composer Daniel Pemberton attempt to add some flair by distinguishing timelines — soft focused 16mm for 1984 with a 8-bit score; lushly coloured 35mm and swirling strings in 1988; and crisp digital with a spare, muted piano — but it’s a little pedestrian.
Yet the power of the screenplay and cast still captivate and enthral, operating on a processing power far beyond its remit. For completists, it’s nowhere near the full story, perhaps not even reality at all, the Isaacson book and Alex Gibney’s excellent Jobs’ doc The Man in the Machine await. As a snapshot of brilliance and megalomania, you won’t find better.