LFF 2015: Michael Fassbender astonishes yet again as the Apple co-founder
'People don't know what they want until you show it to them,' declares Apple co-founder Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender), a man who doesn't half believe his own hype. Based on Walter Isaacson's authorised biography, with a screenplay penned by Aaron Sorkin, there are plenty of West Wing-style walk-and-talks in a film that – just like Sorkin's superlative TV show – illustrates how the professional gets intensely personal when work is, basically, your life.
It's a far-from-flattering but impressively multifaceted portrait of an utterly uncompromising character, centring on three key product launches (the Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT in 1988, the iMac in 1998), as we go behind-the-scenes to witness a series of crucial conversations. The approach is theatrical but, if Sorkin keeps the dialogue blisteringly smart, then director Danny Boyle ensures the whole enterprise is correspondingly lively.
As the film delves into Jobs' close relationships it demonstrates a keen sense of what's at stake for him at each point in time and, even when it's drowning in tech talk, whips-up genuine suspense for the launches that, themselves, go unseen. Perhaps anticipating criticism, Steve Jobs mocks its own impossibly neat structure: the way the same pivotal players conveniently choose to offload on three separate occasions, just as Jobs is preparing to go onstage ('Five minutes before every launch, everyone goes to a bar, gets drunk, and lets me know what they really think.')
It's performed with furious conviction by a cast that includes Kate Winslet as Jobs' dependable / permanently harassed right-hand woman Joanna Hoffman, while Jeff Daniels makes for an avuncular John Sculley and Seth Rogen an affable Steve Wozniak – relationships that sadly sour; and Katherine Waterston brings gut-wrenching humanity to Chrisann, the mother of Jobs' daughter, who he initially denies paternity of – her squalid desperation in stark contrast to his unabashed arrogance.
And, although the physical resemblance is hardly striking, Fassbender is appropriately assertive as Jobs, showing the level of maniacal self-belief it takes to convince the world to buy what you are selling, and how that might impact on those around you. This remarkable actor digs deep to unearth the fallible, guilt-ridden and damaged man behind the hubristic exterior, revealing him to us piece by compelling piece. Asked to explain his failings as a father, he says simply, 'I'm poorly made.' Luckily the film is far from it.
Screening on Sun 18 Oct as part of the London Film Festival 2015. General release from Fri 13 Nov.