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Steve Jobs review: Apple story feels like a botched job

New Steve Jobs biopic from Danny Boyle disappoints and only Michael Fassbender emerges with credit, says Andrew Johnston

Published 13/11/2015

Bad job: Michael Stuhlbarg, Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet play early Apple team in Steve Jobs
Bad job: Michael Stuhlbarg, Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet play early Apple team in Steve Jobs

Not to be confused with 2013's Ashton Kutcher-starring Jobs or the upcoming documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, the authoritatively-titled Steve Jobs is Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle's attempt to put the life story of the late Apple co-founder on the big screen.

But the Aaron Sorkin-penned drama is far from a conventional biopic. Despite covering a period of 15 years and being divided into roughly three acts, the film plays like a continuous, two-hour-long scene.

From the moment we are introduced to Michael Fassbender's Jobs and Kate Winslet's Apple marketing executive Joanna Hoffman, frantically preparing for the 1984 launch of the company's Macintosh computer, there is no let-up. Sorkin's dialogue isn't so much rapid-fire as barrel-bomb, and the action rarely ventures outside of dimly lit conference halls.

It's all rather claustrophobic, not to say exhausting.

Clearly, this is a stylistic choice, but it doesn't make for easy viewing. Sorkin has delivered an impenetrable, fanboy-pandering narrative, whereas his Oscar-winning script for The Social Network made Facebook co-creator Mark Zuckerberg's story engaging whether you had 5,000 online 'friends' or had never even used email.

Steve Jobs, meanwhile, is aimed at the kind of people who queue for the latest iPhone.

There's little attempt to place the events of the movie into any kind of framework, and the iPod is lovingly referenced towards the end, which comes before Jobs died of cancer in 2011, aged 56.

Yet at the same time, Boyle's picture is no hagiography. Jobs is revealed as a monster throughout, from verbally abusing the cuddly development team leader Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) to obnoxiously denying paternity of his daughter Lisa (portrayed by Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo and Makenzie Moss at different stages).

It's never clear if the Apple boss is a psychopath or is perhaps suffering from a form of autism, but if it weren't for Fassbender's superbly nuanced performance, he would be nigh on unwatchable.

Fassbender takes control of proceedings and manages to make the pernickety Jobs something approaching likeable.

Winslet, meanwhile, spends much of the time wrestling with her character's accent, while the likes of Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels and John Ortiz are criminally underused.

Rogen, who plays Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, is particularly wasted. The amiable 'Woz' is crucial to Jobs's story, but only appears every half an hour or so to ask his old friend to acknowledge the tech team responsible for creating the pioneering Apple II computer.

This is what passes for intrigue in Steve Jobs, along with arguments over the number of slots on Apple's computers and what tools are needed to open up the machines. It's often about as exciting as watching a vintage Apple game load, which is ironic, considering how fascinating and revolutionary Jobs's life and work were.

It would be easy to blame Boyle, whose innovative directing style is scarcely in evidence here, but there's not a lot anyone could have done with Sorkin's unyielding screenplay.

Like Jobs's design for the doomed NeXT computer, Steve Jobs is all style and very little substance.

Three stars

Belfast Telegraph

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