Here's the third attempt in as many years to bring the story of the Apple cofounder to the big screen – and easily the best, thanks to a crackling script from Sorkin and a vivid central performance by Fassbender.
The film is far from being a biopic of the man – it feels more like a stage-play than a traditional theatrical movie. It's structured into three sections, each centred on a specific product being launched by Jobs: the Apple Macintosh in 1984, the first new product for Apple since its hugely successful Apple II; the second is the NeXT computer in 1988; and the third is the iMac in 1988. Each secttion takes place backstage before each launch, and sees Jobs involved in debates and arguments and clashes with significant people in his life – people such as Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak (Rogen), Apple CEO John Sculley (Daniels), head of marketing Joanna Hoffman (Winslet), Mac chief engineer Andy Hertzfeld (Stuhlbarg), and Lisa Brennan, a girl that the courts have declared to be his biological daughter.
Steve Jobs is a film that, on paper, probably should not work. It's too talky, for a start. In fact, it's pretty much all talking. There is little to no action, just people talking to each other – mostly in pairs, and primarily about geeky computer stuff. Also, Fassbender doesn't really look that much like Jobs, and the character is pretty much an antihero. People who worked with the man have always said he was, to be generous, "difficult", and that is how he comes across here: single-minded, arrogant, driven, insulting, pigheaded and ego-centric, convinced that he is right no matter what anyone else says.
But work it does. Steve Jobs is fascinating and compelling from the word go, and that's mainly down to a sublime performance from Fassbender, one of the best actors around today, and screenwriter Sorkin, who is simply unbeatable when it comes to dialogue. He was the man behind the brilliant Facebook film The Social network, and also some of the best television of the past two decades, from the magnificent The West Wing to the vastly underrated Studio 60 and The Newsroom. The support cast is also first-class, from Rogen and Daniels to the various actresses playing daughter Lisa at different ages. The only slight catch is Winslett as Hoffman – the character was Polish, but her accent comes and goes throughout the film. But it's a minor glitch; this is a film that is just overflowing with powerful performances.
Steve Jobs, the man, had a huge impact on the world, and its technology. As we see Woz keep telling him, Jobs may not have been a coder or an engineer, but he certainly knew what he was doing, and he knew how to build Apple into the monolith it is today. He was one of the smartest businessmen the world has ever seen. We all know that Jobs was a genius, but was he a decent human being too? We'll probably never know, and this film does not try to answer that question. Nor does it do an awful lot to give us an insight into the private life of the man himself. But it does reveal some of the relationships he had with those close to him, and the impact he had on those people. It's a raw and fascinating look at a visionary man who changed the world.