Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Katherine Waterston, Michael Stuhlbarg
Run Time: 122 mins
“What do you do?” Steve Wozniak questions Steve Jobs on his role that he plays in Apple. “Musicians play their instruments. I play the orchestra,” Steve Jobs wittily replies, cementing why his input was so paramount in the rise of Apple. ‘Steve Jobs’ is an adaptation of Walter Isaacson’s biography of the late Steve Jobs penned by Aaron Sorkin behind Academy Award hits such as ‘The Social Network’ and ‘Moneyball’. Sorkin is a literary genius when it comes to script writing and his scripts generally tend to be very snappy and to the point yet have a degree of wit to them. The script contains three scenes, just before new product launches and is a character study into Jobs and his fellow colleagues. The development of ‘Steve Jobs’ has been turbulent – originally destined to be in the hands of director David Fincher who is the man behind ‘The Social Network’, this project would have suited him to a tee. However his demands were unreasonable. He said he would only direct the film if Christian Bale would play Jobs, but Bale didn’t want to. This would have been a fascinating collaboration. Later, Danny Boyle was announced as the director with Leonardo Di Caprio slotted to play Jobs who then dropped out and Michael Fassbender replaced him. On paper, perhaps not as good of a combination of Boyle and Fassbender compared to Fincher and Bale but worthy replacements nonetheless. ‘Steve Jobs’ has received critical acclaim in its release (although it has tanked in the US) with many stating that it is one of Boyle’s best films.
‘Steve Jobs’ is a fascinating film with a mostly outstanding script and some brilliant performances, but it is also deeply flawed. The film lacks a sense of direction due to a limited story and it gets a little tedious at times as it doesn’t quite have enough material to sustain its two hour run time. The film also feels jarringly disjointed and it doesn’t feel like a Danny Boyle film, save until the last five minutes. It almost feels as if he is trying to emulate David Fincher’s, ‘The Social Network’ but it hardly ever propels itself to its heights. Instead, ‘Steve Jobs’ feels as if it’s a nervous mix between ‘The Social Network’ and last year’s ‘Birdman’. The whole tone of the film feels odd and jumbled and Boyle gives the impression that he is a very indecisive director who doesn’t know what he’s doing at times. However its flaws aside, when the film finds its feet, it’s excellent and there are a couple of breathtaking sequences and the film boasts some incredible performances from Michael Fassbender, Jeff Daniels and Michael Stuhlbarg.
Fassbender is Academy Award worthy in the titular role and he plays Jobs very convincingly. Especially in the third act, he looks strikingly resemblant to Jobs and throughout the entire film, Fassbender emulates Jobs’ mannerisms to perfection – it’s a wonderful performance. Jeff Daniels is also wonderful as John Sculley, who was the CEO of Apple from 1983 to 1993. Daniels and Fassbender exchange a heartbreaking scene where Jobs is fired and this is where the film reaches it peak. It’s easily one of the best acted scenes of the year. Michael Stuhlbarg is also excellent here as Andy Hertzfeld, a member of the original Mac team. Seth Rogen would seem like a perfect match for Steve Wozniak and whilst his performance is sound, he isn’t given much to do which is a shame. Kate Winslet is plain awful as Joanna Hoffman, Jobs’ confidant and her accent keeps slipping and sliding from full-on American to Eastern European (her character is Polish, but her accent doesn’t sound Polish one bit). She is the weak cast member here and puts a real downer on the film. I’m shocked she is receiving critical acclaim – what can other critics see that I can’t?
Aaron Sorkin’s script is outstanding albeit a little tedious at times in its narrative. The first act is 5-star material, but the other two acts fluctuate in the murky waters of the thin narrative. His script feels as if it’s a play and the film bears parallels to ‘Birdman’ in its live performance feel which is a great opportunity to showcase the strong acting. It’s just a shame Sorkin can’t quite match the second and third acts to the first, but it’s still very strong when it’s not at its peak. Daniel Pemberton’s score is extremely effective and is a career best for him – it really gels with the film and the cinematography by Alwin H. Küchler is solid.
It’s a real shame that ‘Steve Jobs’ isn’t as good as it should have been. Whilst it boasts many strong aspects such as its performances and script, the storyline is just too thin to sustain the film’s 2 hour run time and the film just ends up feeling rather tedious at times. Danny Boyle, although successful in certain aspects, isn’t a perfect match to the material and a Fincher-Bale pairing would have been so much better. ‘Steve Jobs’ looks pretty strong in its Awards prospects – it will almost certainly receive nominations for Fassbender, Sorkin and Best Picture. Perhaps Jeff Daniels for Best Supporting Actor as well. But I struggle to think what else it justifies to earn. Despite its strengths, it’s a deeply flawed film and the film is extremely haphazard in its direction. But when it finds its feet, it’s excellent.