M, 122 minutes, opens February 4
Director: Danny Boyle
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen
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Steve Jobs: A look inside
Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint an intimate portrait of the brilliant man at its epicentre.
Steve Jobs, a study of the late co-founder of Apple that takes place in the hours and minutes prior to three separate product launches, is a powerful film with little subtlety. The subject, as played by Michael Fassbender, is a combative visionary who wants the machines he's obsessively overseen to exist without outside options.
"End-to-end control – completely incompatible with everything," he proudly says of one creation. Gee, who might that description also apply to?
Jobs, who died in 2011 from pancreatic cancer, helped introduce the personal computer, the online age and the smartphone, and his life has been dissected in numerous documentaries, biographies, a Banksy mural and whatever you want to call that dreadful 2013 Jobs biopic starring Ashton Kutcher. The idea of Steve Jobs is omnipotent, a form that Aaron Sorkin's script and Danny Boyle's film says he would have appreciated.
At first the microscopic focus is welcome, eschewing the sweep of history for telling moments. Like the opening wedding scene of The Godfather, everyone calls on Jobs on his big day, whether it's launching the Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT in 1988 or the iMac in 1998. He berates his staff, laments slights and clashes with Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston), the aggrieved mother of a watchful daughter, Lisa, whose paternity Jobs was painfully and publicly slow to acknowledge.
This Steve Jobs is a gifted jerk, which makes him perfect for Sorkin's skill with lacerating dialogue. "That box could be on display in the Guggenheim," he declares of the NeXT, and you can readily enjoy the film's many juicy lines. But they also make for a narrow portrait of Jobs, and one that shoehorns in some ham-fisted exchanges about his insecurity stemming from being put up for adoption as a baby.
Fassbender is in his element as a God complex that needs more office space, but he's so good at being volcanic and vituperative that his play for redemption fails. His sleek surface works best reflecting those around Jobs, most notably Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, the marketing executive who could speak truth to Jobs' power, and Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak, the sweet but wounded circuitry geek who built Apple's first computer.
Their reactions to Jobs provide definition, and sometimes Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire), a director of urgent inclination, slows down to savour the performances. The rest of the time he's trying to escape the confines of corridors and rooms – he repeatedly ends up shooting from above light fixtures. The end result is satisfying yet somehow limited, perhaps because it's always looking back. The man envisaged the future, the film obsesses over his past.