There's an old adage that goes: never let the truth get in the way of a good story. And writer Aaron Sorkin, the genius behind The West Wing, has certainly followed that adage to the letter with The Social Network. How much truth is there, really, in this tale of computer whizkid Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook? From what I've read, very little. But that really doesn't matter, for what we have here is an engrossing drama that is easily one of the best films of 2010.
If Zuckerberg – wonderfully portrayed here by Eisenberg – is really as big a narcissistic, arrogant arsehole as he's made out if be, would he have been able to build a social networking website that has more than 500 million users around the world, and which has led to him having an estimated personal wealth of almost $7 billion? I don't think so. But that's irrelevant to the story here, which is as good as you'd expect from a writer of Sorkin's calibre. And David Fincher is no slouch in the director's chair, either. Together they've managed to construct a sort-of biopic about a computer programmer that far from being as boring as watching, well, someone writing a computer program, is actually a riveting tale of friendship, ego, business, envy, manipulation, backstabbing and college life. Oh, and computer programming.
Structured around two lawsuits brought by three people who claim they were also involved in the founding of Facebook – Zuckerberg's buddy Eduardo Saverin (Garfield) and Harvard snobs and Olympic rowers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Hamer) – The Social Network opens with a wonderful scene of the socially-awkward Zuckerberg being dumped by his latest girlfriend. Back in his dorm, after slagging her off on his blog, he creates the girl-comparison site (and HotorNot clone) Facemash – which brings him to the attention of the Harvard faculty, and the Winklevoss brothers, who want him to help them on a website they are bulding, called Harvard Connection. The rest, as they say is history. And a couple of lawsuits.
Eisenberg – until now best known for roles in comedies such as Zombieland and Adventureland (so why didn't they call this Facebookland?) – is pitch-perfect as Zuckerberg. How close is he to the real Zuck? Well, only Zuckerberg himself, who says he's never watched this film, and those close to him know for sure. Eisenberg is all manic energy and mile-a-minute speech, a man with big ideas who is obsessed with computer coding and building a network that will one day reach every person on the planet. It's Oscar-worthy stuff, with nominations for Best Picture along with Eisenberg for Best Actor, Sorkin for the zippy script and Fincher for his flawless direction.
The supports are all first rate too, but particular standouts are Garfield, who will soon be seen as Spider-Man in that franchise's reboot, and former boy-band crooner Timberlake. Yes, that Justin Timberlake, who continues to surprise and dazzle as an actor. He was brilliant in both Alpha Dog and Black Snake Moan, and here – as Napster founder Sean Parker, who joins Zuck in his Facebook project – he's nothing short of sensational as the complex, multilayered party boy turned company president. The Social Network may not be firmly rooted in the real world, but it's nothing short of whip smart and eminently watchable.
EXTRAS ★★★★ A great film deserves a great package of bonus material, and The Social network almost, almost gets one. Disc 1 has the film (of course!) and two audio commentaries – one with director Fincher, and the other with writer Sorkin and stars Eisenberg, Garfield, Timberlake, Hammer and Pence. Disc 2 has the feature-length making-of documentary, How Did They Ever Make a Movie of Facebook?(1:32:43). Plus there are five other short featurettes: Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter and Ren Klyce on Post (17:24) – editors Wall and Baxter, and sound designer Klyce, discuss editing the film; Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and David Fincher on the Score (18:55) – Fincher, Reznor and Ross discuss the process of creating the score; Jeff Cronenweth and David Fincher on the Visuals (7:48) – Fincher and DP Cornenweth discuss creating the look of the film; Swarmatron (4:28) – Atticus Rose explains the Swarmatron sound machine used to create parts of the score; In the Hall of the Mountain King – multi-angle music exploration which allows viewers to Watch the same scene four different ways with different layers of music; Ruby Skye VIP Room: multi-angle scene breakdown. All that's missing that would make it complete are some deleted scenes and a gag reel.