The Social Network

The Social Network ★★★★½

The Social Network is director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's prodigious, Oscar-winning re-telling of how Mark Zuckerberg spearheaded a revolution of recent times. Every element is assembled and combined almost seamlessly to resemble a rich, dramatic and energetic piece of filmmaking.

Beginning at Harvard in 2003, when Zuckerberg posts an angry blog about a girl who's just dumped him, we are witness to the stifling chain of events that arise as a result. After his site that allows users to rate female students by their looks becomes a sensation, the wealthy Winklevoss twins approach him with a business plan for a new social networking site for Ivy League schools. Using the brothers' template, Zuckerberg formulates Thefacebook with friend Eduardo Saverin, and expand it. Incensed, the Winklevoss twins are powerless to prevent the rise and success of what they deem their idea, and when Zuckerberg falls under the spell of cocky entrepreneur Sean Parker, Facebook (as it's now branded) is destined for history books.

Not enough praise can be heaped upon Aaron Sorkin's writing, which provides so many nefariously clever lines at such a rate that coming up with examples is pointless. Fincher's kinetic, frenetic direction gives the film a breakneck pace and cloying sense of atmosphere: the warm colour palette, fast editing and incessant talk mean there's rarely a second in which to catch your breath. It also means you're completely gripped most of the time for fear of missing something essential. Coupled with Sorkin's script, however, it brings a level of gravity, evoking the poisonous vacuity of the characters' lives and attitudes to remind us that, through all the money, they're really just a bunch of put-upon rich boys.

Arguably, it's the performances that bring the film to life. Each one glitters in its own right, with Jesse Eisenberg rightly deserving the acclaim universally bestowed upon him. But the two highlights for me were Andrew Garfield as Saverin and Justin Timberlake as Parker. The former is exceptionally good at playing good-natured characters who are wounded as a result of their manipulability, and here is a prime example of his talent at work. Timberlake's work creates a character who is remarkable in his insufferability and contempt for the efforts of those he can influence and eventually manipulate. When you actually want to strangle a character who's on screen, you know the actor's doing a particularly fine job.

My chief quibble regarding The Social Network would be Fincher's unnecessary decision to stick a scene depicting the Henley Regatta in among the litigations and technological pioneering, as it disrupts the flow of the drama. Otherwise, it's a fine film which coasts on the insightful performances, magnificent dialogue and inspired directorial choices, not to mention a terrific electronic soundtrack. This, along with 12 Years a Slave, is perhaps the best biopic of the decade so far; that may sound like faint praise, but when you consider the dearth of cinematic innovation in the genre, it's an important accolade.

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