The film, directed by Danny Boyle, isn’t a biopic but rather an impressionistic look at a man told through three vignettes pulled from crucial moments in his career. The vast bulk of the movie takes place backstage at the launches of the Macintosh in 1984, the Nextcube in 1988 and the iMac in 1998. It’s a three act play populated with characters from Jobs’s life, like his daughter Lisa, her mother (Katherine Waterston), the visionaries’ “work wife,” marketing chief Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), Apple CEO John Scully (Jeff Daniels) and computer geeks Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogan) and Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg).
What follows is a flurry of words and ideas from screenwriter Aaron Sorkin that don’t act as a traditional biography but as a tool to peel away the layers of the man’s personality to provide a an intimate glimpse into his psyche. Jobs’s life has been the subject of features, documentaries, books and much speculation but the new film is the first attempt to truly turn the camera on the man and really see what was going on behind his steely gaze.
Michael Fassbender is on screen virtually every second of the film, anchoring the action by allowing Sorkin’s crackerjack script to take center stage. This is a movie whose special effects are the performances and the actor’s facility with the dialogue. Fassbender spits out vast blocks of words, nailing the cadence of Sorkin’s voice, milking every line for maximum effect. As nimble as that performance is Jeff Daniels appears to have been born to speak Sorkin’s rat-a-tat dialogue.
Sorkin, who after pending “The Social Network” has cornered the market on writing vivid portraits of troubled computer nerds, is the real star here. His script is kinetic, complicated, unrelenting and yet accessible. Whether it’s historically accurate may be up for debate, but this isn’t a documentary, it’s a sketch of a man that’s not concerned with the details–iPods and iPhones don’t even rate a mention–and certainly doesn’t play as an ad for Apple. Instead it Steve Jobs as an almost Shakespearean character, a man with a vision but who remained a “closed system” even for those who knew him best.
Steve Jobs changed the world. His unrelenting perfectionism changed the way we communicate with one another but Sorkin and Boyle were astute enough not to try and reinvent the biopic. This is a bold film that thinks differently about its subject, but at it’s heart it is about a typical movie subject. Think Charles Foster Kane, a person who wasn’t a nice man, but was a great man.