Based on a book called ‘The Accidental Billionaires’ by Ben Mezrich, 'The Social Network' takes us back to a now unimaginable time when phrases such as ‘Facebook me’, ‘ooh look she’s updated her relationship status’ and ’10 people like this’ would have been met with slightly puzzled expressions to say the least. How much truth there is in this portrayal of the Mark Zuckerberg story is only known by the people directly involved and various parts of it have been disputed by Zuckerberg himself. Nonetheless this hugely enjoyable movie is well worth a trip to the cinema if you have not already seen it.
Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is a prodigiously gifted Harvard IT undergraduate with only one friend and a girlfriend who is about to dump him. Our heartbroken hero reacts to the dumping the way we all would. He goes home, gets drunk, slates his ex on his blog, hacks a few university computer systems and redefines Social Media as we know it. His creation, which allowed you to compare the attractiveness of various Harvard females, goes viral and crashes the university computer network that night.
The notoriety Zuckerberg gains through this stunt catches the eye of stereotypical American university ‘jocks’ Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer) who are looking for a programmer to build their own Harvard dating website idea. Zuckerberg agrees to build it for them, his motivation for doing so being the access he would gain to their social network (ie women), rather than financial gain.
What follows is a story of betrayal. Firstly Zuckerberg betrays the Winklevoss twins by starting his own creation which digitises the social lives of college students rather than the Harvard dating site that he told them he was working on. As the website grows beyond all expectation Zuckerberg then betrays his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield).
Having used Saverin as a cash cow and making him CFO during the early days of ‘The Facebook’, Zuckerberg is seduced by the Napster founder and infinitely cooler Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) and under Parker’s influence tricks Saverin into signing paperwork which makes his share of the company virtually worthless. Parker’s influence also sees the company name being changed from ‘The Facebook’ to just ‘Facebook’.
As Facebook grows beyond 1 million members things start to unravel. Parker is arrested for cocaine possession, effectively ending his involvement in the day to day running of Facebook. The Winklevoss twins and Saverin take Zuckerberg to court, the former claiming that he stole their idea, the latter attempting to recover his original share of the company. Zuckerberg eventually settles with both parties out of court and at the end of the film we are shown a slightly rueful Facebook billionaire attempting to add the girl who started the whole thing off to his Facebook friends list.
Director David Fincher has produced an extremely well-made film which mimics its hero in its cleverness and cold, perceptive and cocksure style. The screenplay, written by Aaron Sorkin, tells a potentially very complicated story in a clear and uncomplicated way and while the subject matter inevitably includes much about computer programming, these themes are explored in terms that everyone can immediately understand.
The film’s superb buzzing dialogue also adds to the enjoyment and the exploration of the central relationships in the story, those between Zuckerberg and Saverin, Zuckerberg and Parker and Parker and Saverin, is exemplary and packs a significant emotional punch.
In terms of performances, Eisenberg steals the show with his uncanny portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg, nicely finding the balance between the character’s at times shockingly immoral behaviour and feelings of genuine remorse towards the end of the story.
Special mentions must also go to British actor Andrew Garfield who gives a good performance as the nice-but-out-of-his-depth business partner and to Justin Timberlake who puts in a believable performance as a cocky, flamboyant Sean Parker. The musical score by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails should also get a mention, setting the mood perfectly without ever being too intrusive.
All in all, this is one of the best films of 2010 and well worth a shout for an Oscar or two.
Guy Levine 10/10
Justin Butcher 8/10
Dave Ashworth 8/10
Rob Hillyard 9/10
Phil Morgan 8/10
Samina Ali 9/10
Andy Venables 8.5/10