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Steve Jobs (Movie 2015): Fantastic Michael Fassbender

Steve Jobs movie Michael FassbenderSteve Jobs movie with Michael Fassbender.
  • Steve Jobs (movie 2015) review: Michael Fassbender proves himself an outstanding actor in director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s vibrant biopic of the notorious Apple entrepreneur.
  • Steve Jobs was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Actor (Michael Fassbender) and Best Supporting Actress (Kate Winslet). Film editor Elliot Graham, however, was bypassed. (See further below.)

Steve Jobs (movie 2015) review: Michael Fassbender delivers a career-making performance in Danny Boyle’s excellent biopic about the Apple co-founder

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

On the outside, computers are clean, symmetrical slabs of molded polycarbonate; pleasant, or at least inoffensive, to look at. On the inside, however, the part most consumers don’t see, is a bento box of wires, circuit boards, memory chips, graphics cards, and cooling systems, busily processing and moving the innumerable pieces of information that make the unit work flawlessly – or, occasionally, crash.

What director Danny Boyle’s ferocious three-act rocket ride, Steve Jobs, teaches us about its eponymous tech icon, is that he was much like a computer: On the outside, clad in his signature black turtleneck and jeans, he was trim, bespectacled and flawlessly functioning. On the inside, he was on the brink of crashing, his internal OS in constant operation, avoiding, justifying, and occasionally acknowledging his poor treatment of others in the name of egomaniacal history making.

Such is the overarching idea behind Steve Jobs, a riveting, high-speed assault that crystallizes the life of a man whose career successes were a result of his personal failures.

Three-act play

Such a larger than life figure would seem impossible to successfully boil down to filmable length (sorry, Ashton Kutcher, your 2013 Jobs biopic is a tinker toy compared to this F16). But if any screenwriter has the imagination, insight, and wit for the job, it’s Aaron Sorkin.

Here he creates a deceptively simple three-act structure that unfolds (except for a couple of flashbacks) in only three locations. Yet Steve Jobs contains a barrage of dialogue that’s monumental in volume, and scabrous and revelatory in detail. It’s a typically Sorkin-esque collection of high-octane, highly literate verbal jousts that manages the neat trick of exalting Jobs while also crucifying him.

To say the movie makes him more human is cheap and easy. Instead, it confronts his issues head-on and without spite; as a result, it demystifies him while making his accomplishments even more phenomenal.

Showman Jobs

Sorkin sets his superheated triptych during three of Apple’s biggest product launches, in the days when the company was still the feisty underdog and not, as it is today, too big for anyone to feel sorry for it.

The first is the 1984 launch of the Macintosh. Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is only 29 years old as he stalks the hallways and backstage areas of De Anza Community College in Cupertino, California. His body and mind are in constant motion, pushing, demanding, and berating underlings who seek only the approval of a man whose cult of personality had basically already formed.

He insists that software developer Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg, an underappreciated performer) find a way to get the Macintosh to say the word “hello” to the assembled audience, while also demanding the auditorium’s illuminated exit signs be turned off to completely darken the theater for a more dramatic unveiling.

Steve Jobs Kate Winslet Joanna HoffmanSteve Jobs movie with Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman.

Interpersonal dysfunctions

Befitting a writer so adept at methodically digging for, and exploiting, character weakness, Aaron Sorkin taps multiple veins of interpersonal dysfunction. He gets the most mileage from the notion that Steve Jobs found it easier to connect to a machine then to his own family and co-workers. (If Jobs even had friends, they’re not represented here.)

As the minutes tick by before the big Macintosh unveiling, he’s visited by his 5-year-old daughter, Lisa (Makenzie Moss), whose paternity he denies right in front of the girl and her mother, Chrisann (Katherine Waterston), who is reduced to begging for money from a man worth $400 million.

Jobs agrees to give Chrisann money only after Lisa draws a picture on the Macintosh using its paint program. To Jobs, the nascent icon with supercharged ambition, people are assigned value based on their relationship to the products he creates.

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise


Sorkin also uses this first act to introduce three other key players in Jobs’ life: Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen, a nifty casting touch), and Apple marketing guru Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet with an inconsistent Polish accent). This Greek Chorus appears in all three acts, each holding up a different mirror to Jobs’ cruel behavior.

Sculley dominates the second act’s backstage drama that unfolds in 1988, after the Mac has bombed and Jobs has been fired as head of Apple. About to introduce the wildly overpriced NeXT computer at the San Francisco Opera House, Jobs is forced to confront Sculley about his humiliating ouster.

Soon to be Oscar-nominated editor Elliot Graham creates thunderous, near-Shakespearean drama out of Jobs’ firing, intercutting between a boardroom flashback and ever more heated, present-day dialogue attesting to the depths of both men’s anger.

The third product launch is the 1998 introduction of the bubble-shaped, lollipop-hued iMac, where the prodigal son, having returned to Apple, finally has it out with the hefty, bearded Wozniak. Ever in the shadow of the (puppet) master, The Woz has been begging Jobs to acknowledge the team that created the Apple II, the computer that propped up the company for years.

Surgical precision

In its methodical, yet fast-paced denuding of a callous and unfeeling modern corporate potentate, Steve Jobs is an absolute triumph. Sorkin flays the Apple co-founder’s issues with such surgical precision that letting in any emotional daylight almost feels like a compromise.

The film’s only two missteps are a result of forcing a too-tidy button on Jobs’ behavior, including the idea that his issues can be traced back to being rejected by his original adoptive parents. Sorkin also puts a rather simplistic capper on his relationship with Lisa in – not coincidentally – the only major exterior scene in the film.

Otherwise, Jobs, at least as a movie character, is best when he’s bad. If the man has any empathy at all, he’s offloaded it to Joanna. Jobs’ exasperated aide-de-camp and “work wife” is constantly in awe at the depths of her boss’ lack of compassion. Her frustration boils over until she’s so angry at Jobs not paying for Lisa’s college tuition that she threatens to quit.

Steve Jobs Michael FassbenderSteve Jobs movie with Michael Fassbender as the pathologically driven Apple honcho.

Energetic Danny Boyle

With all this talk of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, it’s a good time to mention that Steve Jobs was actually directed by someone: Oscar winner Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 2008).

Even if one can imagine the dark pall that original helmer David Fincher would have brought to Sorkin’s dialogue, the world of Steve Jobs is not the world of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, subject of Fincher and Sorkin’s cool, incisive biopic The Social Network.

Boyle is the better choice here. His camera is fleet and energetic; his visual flourishes are theatrical and cheeky but not distracting, and his varying of film stocks (16mm for 1984; 35mm for 1988; and sleek, high-def digital for 1998) conveys the passing of time and increased technological sophistication.

Boyle’s camera is where it needs to be as Jobs reveals himself – as when he shakes off discordant thoughts of Lisa by muttering that an Apple chip is faster than a Pentium chip. Point being, Jobs couldn’t create order in his personal life, so he created it in his computers.

Michael Fassbender’s best

Michael Fassbender, at first blush, doesn’t seem a particularly suitable replacement for the originally cast Christian Bale. But Fassbender is a softer presence than Bale and he has the visionary’s glint – the one suggesting he’s operating on a higher plane than the rest of us.

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

We sense his machinery working, his circuits assessing and rerouting as the next accusation of personal impropriety approaches, or he needs to come up with his next withering insult.

Fassbender creates Steve Jobs from the inside out. The black turtleneck and jeans merely complete the illusion. He spits out Sorkin’s words with such ease they feel ad-libbed. It is certainly the best performance of his career.

Life of ‘i’

Steve Jobs was adapted from Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography, which was the first high-profile, high-quality cataloguing of Jobs’ shortcomings.

Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin have taken that material and brought it to passionate, nimble, sparkling life.

You will neither like nor dislike Steve Jobs more for having seen this movie. You will, however, believe that the “i” in iPhone, iPad, and iMac refers not to the consumer who buys and fetishizes these devices, but to the man whose ego drove their creation.

Steve Jobs (movie 2015) cast & crew

Director: Danny Boyle.

Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin.
From the 2011 biography by Walter Isaacson.

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, Seth Rogen, Sarah Snook, Katherine Waterston, Michael Stuhlbarg, Perla Haney-Jardine.

Cinematography: Alwin Küchler.

Film Editing: Elliot Graham.

Music: Daniel Pemberton.

Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas.

Producers: Danny Boyle, Guymon Casady, Christian Colson, Mark Gordon, and Scott Rudin.

Production Companies: Legendary Entertainment | Scott Rudin Productions | Mark Gordon Company | Management 360 | Decibel | Cloud Eight Films | Dentsu | Fuji Television Network.

Distributor: Universal Pictures.

Running Time: 122 min.

Countries: United Kingdom | United States | Japan.

Steve Jobs (Movie 2015)” notes

Award nominations

Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs earned Michael Fassbender the Los Angeles Film Critics Association‘s Best Actor Award.

Boyle’s biopic was also the Golden Globes‘ winner in two categories: Best Supporting Actress (Kate Winslet) and Best Screenplay. (Michael Fassbender lost out to Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant.)

Besides its two Oscar nods, Steve Jobs’ awards season nominations include those at the SAG Awards (Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet), plus the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, the Online Film Critics, and the Critics’ Choice Awards.

Steve Jobs movie credits via the American Film Institute (AFI) Catalog website.

Kate Winslet and Michael Fassbender Steve Jobs movie images: Universal Pictures.

Steve Jobs (Movie 2015): Fantastic Michael Fassbender” last updated in April 2023.

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