Sunday 17 June 2018

Movie Review: Steve Jobs (2015)

An honest portrayal of a deeply flawed genius, Steve Jobs presents the portrait of the man through a unique structure, revealing his passion, obsession, and distinctive character traits.

The film is divided into three chapters, each depicting the anxious period just before a key product launch in the remarkable career of Jobs (Michael Fassbender). The same group of people interact with him prior to each presentation:
  • Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), his marketing executive and chief confidant. 
  • Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), the Apple co-founder, seeking recognition for Apple's early success and navigating a strained relationship with Jobs.
  • John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), the executive brought into Apple by Jobs, as well as Jobs' mentor and sometime nemesis.
  • Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), a long-term member of the Apple technical design team.
  • Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston), Jobs' former girlfriend and the mother of his daughter Lisa.
  • Lisa herself, from child to young adult.
The three product launches are the Apple Macintosh in 1984, which Jobs predicted would be a mass market success (wrong) and revolutionize the industry (eventually right); the first NeXT computer in 1988 after Jobs was ousted from Apple; and the Apple iMac in 1998, after he returned to the company and embarked on a remarkable run of success that transformed Apple into one of the largest and most successful business behemoths in history.

Directed by Danny Boyle, written by Aaron Sorkin and based on the Walter Isaacson book, Steve Jobs is an exhilarating talk fest. A series of rapid fire conversations in the build-up to high-stakes product launches, the film succeeds in highlighting the exhausting essence of a detail-obsessed man who both saw and defined the future of consumer electronics, and never yielded to what was convenient in pursuit of his vision.

The three-chapter structure traces Jobs' nuanced transformation as he ages and is buffeted by the realities of the business world. Although his core beliefs never change, he softens around the edges, listening just a bit more to the often exasperated Joanna, growing more accepting of Lisa's role in his life, and mending a few, if not all, damaged fences, notably with Sculley.

Sorkin's script is brilliant, the prose sharp but not overwhelming. The dialogue, while essentially made up, teases out all aspects of Jobs' insecurities and obstinacy, and the collision of his quirks with his objectives. Sorkin and Boyle never shy away from Jobs' stubborn obsessiveness with details that may not matter to anyone else, with Hertzfeld a regular victim, nor from Jobs' unwillingness to ever share the limelight or open a crack of recognition coveted by Wozniak.

The film also reveals Jobs' streak of ruthlessness in navigating the unforgiving waters of high stakes business, sometimes losing out in a big way (his ouster from Apple), and at other times charting a devious course back to glory (hyping an essentially empty NeXT cube to win an invite back to run Apple).

All the performances are perfect, with Fassbender getting into Jobs' skin and projecting a layer of arrogant confidence covering up a mass of complex unresolved issues. Winslet matches him word for word, comfortably finding Hoffman's courage in recognizing her role as the one person who can sometimes reach an often impossible man.

Steve Jobs is a worthy homage to a reluctant father, dismissive boss, traumatized orphan, friend to very few, unapologetic ideas poacher, and a legend possessing a laser focus on the concept of closed-system designs that would go on to dominate the world.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.


  1. Great review here. I need to check this one out again, only saw it once. Reading this review reminds me that I really hope Fassbender takes on some challenging roles like this soon. I adore his acting so much, but I want him to take on better roles.

  2. This movie reminds me of “The Theory of Everything”. Just as Fassbender was able to give an accurate representation of Jobs’ character, Eddie Redmayne also did a good job portraying the late Stephen Hawking. I think, most of the time we forget that these great personalities also have a private life.

    1. Yes, Fassbender was solid in this one, and the film's innovative structure was able to capture the complexity of Jobs as a person.

    2. I think even Winslet did a good job.


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