Steve Jobs Review: Well Orchestrated Madness

Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, Seth Rogen

Please note, this review contains minor spoilers.

The Overview

Set backstage before the launch of three different products, Steve Jobs shows the slightly darker side of the man at the epicenter of the technological revolution. Adopting a dramatically theatrical three act structure, this film focuses on the tortured genius, and the tumultuous relationships with his co-workers, estranged daughter, and her mother.

The Good

Much like the film’s three act structure, the good points about this film can neatly be broken down into three categories; the acting, the directing and the writing.

First of all the acting is outstanding. Michael Fassbender puts in a fantastic performance as the titular character, making him wonderfully unlikeable but yet conveying it with such depth and humanity that you can’t help but be on his side. Fassbender is sharp, witty, crazed and emotionally complicated. There are few scenes without Fassbender, so he has a lot to carry, but he does this with great finesse.

Winslet plays Joanna Hoffman, Jobs’ right hand woman, and whilst her accent is difficult to pinpoint, she is easily the most likeable character in the film, and has a remarkable ability to bring out the human side of Fassbender’s Jobs.

Whilst better known for their roles in more comedic films, Jeff Daniels and Seth Rogen do a great job at portraying John Sculley and Steve Wozniak respectively. Rogen in particular does an outstanding job, and hopefully this will open up more opportunities for serious roles, and a chance to prove his acting chops, outside of the comedy sphere.

Danny Boyle’s directing in this film is fantastic; the tracking shots which follow Steve around as the tension backstage builds, and the quick cuts between the present day and flashbacks (particularly in the second act), are so well done. The film was surprisingly tense, and the small sets gave it an incredibly claustrophobic feel. Boyle’s focus on the characters at the heart of the story add to this theatricality; I could easily see this story working as a stage show. Each of the three product launches is set in a different time period, spanning 14 years, and each is shot on time specific stock, starting at 16mm, then 35mm and finally in crisp digital. I love this attention to detail and the authentic, realistic appearance it gives the film. It might not be something everyone picks up on, but huge credit has to go to Boyle, and Alwin Küchler, the cinematographer. Daniel Pemberton’s score also changes to reflect the time periods which is a great touch. The orchestra analogy used by Jobs could also be applied to the director; this is well orchestrated madness, masterfully conducted by Danny Boyle.

The film is frenetically paced, and this is thanks in large part to Aaron Sorkin’s writing. If you’ve seen The Social Network, you might know what to expect, but his patented word-a-second style is breathlessly brilliant in this dramatic retelling of Jobs’ story. Whilst the pacing is relentless, it never feels tiring. You will hang on every word, and the possibly slightly long runtime of just over 2 hours will breeze past in no time.

With that being said, I left this film feeling a bit disappointed. I was desperate to like it more, but there were a couple of things that could definitely have been improved on.

The Bad

I liked the three act structure, but it did feel very repetitive. It was similar conversations with the same people, about different (but ultimately similar) products, and by the second and third act, you get the feeling that you had seen it all before. Whilst I liked that it was driven by the characters and the performances, I would have liked to have seen different people introduced relating to the different products, and possibly even some more flashbacks to add to the character building. Also simple enough, but all the products talked about were computers, when Apple did so much more. Had the focus of one of the product launches been for the iPod for example, it might have added some variety.

Whilst I’m sure everyone has their different views, the impact that Jobs and Apple had on the technology world was staggering, however you might not realise it if you watched this film. It is quite negative in it’s tone, focusing solely on Jobs and his flaws rather than the positive impact his products had.

It sounds almost too simple, but the main thing this film was missing for me was an epilogue! Whilst I understand this wasn’t your average biopic, it ended too abruptly and just needed that text at the end talking about the impact the products had, how many units were sold, how much money they made etc. For a film which frequently mentioned the ambitious aims Jobs had in terms of how many units he wanted to sell, we never see or hear of the success he had following the launch of the iMac. There are hints at the iPod when he tells his daughter he will “put a thousand songs” in her pocket, but this isn’t mentioned again, which means the audience is left feeling a bit cold. By the end I was unsure whether I liked Steve Jobs himself, and equally unsure about whether I liked the film or not.

The Verdict

I saw this movie and you should too. This was an incredibly hard verdict to decide on, but the whole point of my reviews is that I don’t sit on the fence, and on reflection there is enough good in this film to make it worth a watch. There is no denying that I left the movie feeling disappointed, but it is equally impossible to deny the talent behind the acting, the directing, and the writing; and this is what makes it worth watching. Immerse yourself in the outstanding performances, the masterful direction and the relentlessly sharp script and you’ll definitely find something to enjoy.

Agree with everything I’ve said, or am I a terribly misguided idiot who has got it all wrong? Please let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to share as well. 

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