From the title, you'd think this was a straightforward biopic, but the film smartly eschews the birth-to-death arc associated with the genre, in favour of something more personal. Aaron Sorkin's screenplay weaves its narrative around three product launches (in 1984, 1988 and 1999), as well as telling the story of Jobs' tumultuous relationship with his daughter, Lisa. In that sense, the film shares more DNA with Selma or The Social Network than, say, Ray or The Iron Lady.
When the film begins, Jobs denies paternity entirely, focusing instead on how he can change the world through a personal computer. Indeed, throughout the film, Jobs seems more concerned with machines than people (and perhaps is better at understanding them), which paints him in a less than favourable light. Here is one of the film's strengths, for its protagonist (or antagonist) is all shades of grey: creative genius or arrogant sociopath, pioneer or master illusionist. Certainly the relationships he has with those closest to him (his daughter, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and software designer Andy Hertzfeld) are shown as complex and bitter, with only hints of redemption or reconciliation. One wonders if this film could have been made during Steve Jobs' lifetime, such is its burning sense of showing the man, warts and all.
Whilst perhaps not a 'typical' Danny Boyle film (if there is such a thing), his aesthetic choices cleverly reflect the times in which each segment is set and there is a strong sense of character and, by implication, of actors being allowed to shine. Michael Fassbender, as ever, is on fine form and it seems ludicrous that some have criticised him for not looking like Jobs when he embodies the character so completely. Equally good are Seth Rogen (showing that he isn't just a funny man), Jeff Daniels, Kate Winslet and Michael Stuhlbarg. Given that there aren't a huge number of key roles in this film, it is even more vital that they provide such strong anchors.
Laughs come from Sorkin's snappy dialogue and use of irony (in one scene, Jobs tells his daughter to listen and not just "say what you want to say", in a moment that underlines his total lack of self-recognition), whilst the emotional punch stems from the father-daughter dynamic. Overall, it's hard to criticise a film that doesn't pull any punches or attempt to be hagiographic about a man many credit with leading the technological revolution of the late twentieth century. Like the products it portrays, this film may not be compatible with everyone, but it certainly looks good and it is sincere in its wish to present a visionary film about a flawed man.