Traditionally, Danny Boyle’s films have focused on a central character who is forced to make difficult decisions under tough circumstances. Picture Renton, diving into a toilet in Trainspotting to retrieve his opium suppository; or Sunshine’s Capa, fighting the presumed dead captain of a spaceship for survival. These are both fictions, of course; but for Steve Jobs, Boyle tackles the dilemmas and decisions made by a real life character at the business end of the lucrative computer industry.
To do this, he has teamed with Aaron Sorkin – who, with The West Wing and The Social Network, has made the idea of characters walking and talking a surprisingly exciting and engaging proposition. Here, Jobs is played by Michael Fassbender, and for much of this biopic he does indeed walk through rooms, talking. Running over the course of three product launches – the original Apple Macintosh in 1984, the cuboid NeXT Computer in ‘88 and the stylish iMac in ‘98 – Boyle’s film tells of a group of bright-eyed whizz kids who succeed with a fabulous new venture, though at a cost. Parallels to Sorkin’s The Social Network are puissant – apart from anything, that film’s director, David Fincher, was in line to direct here – and one can see Jobs as analogous to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.
Unlike The Social Network – whose cast consisted almost entirely of men – Steve Jobs provides key roles for female characters. There is Kate Winslett’s marketing chief Joanna Hoffman, who acts as Jobs’ conscience, and his former partner Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston): Jobs denied being the father of the couple’s daughter, Lisa, for years. Elsewhere, Seth Rogen as Apple colleague Steve Wozniak and Michael Stuhlbarg as the software engineer Andy Hetzfeld all bat Sorkin’s one-liners off one another with appreciable zest. Intriguingly, Jobs is not a tech guy – he can’t write code nor is he designer nor engineer – and this irony drifts through Sorkin’s film. An idea, it transpires, can take a person a long way: sometimes, too far.