Directed by: David Fincher || Produced by: Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Cean Chaffin
Screenplay by: Aaron Sorkin || Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Brenda Song, Rashida Jones
Music by: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross || Cinematography: Jeff Cronenworth || Editing by: Krik Baxter, Angus Wall || Country: United States || Language: English
Running Time: 121 minutes
David Fincher is perhaps the world’s greatest working filmmaker. From his humble origins as the executive whipping-boy of Fox Studios on his feature-film debut, Alien 3 (1992), David Fincher has risen the ranks of big-budget Hollywood filmmaking, released beloved thriller after thriller, helped build careers around stars such as Brad Pitt and Rooney Mara, and perfected a style of turning B-movie concepts into highbrow cinematic projects. There is no director, certainly not in America at least, save for perhaps Quentin Tarantino, who matches his artistic embrace of true-crime pulp and grindhouse melodrama. Enter The Social Network, scripted by the venerable Aaron Sorkin, scored by first time film-composer Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails) and Atticus Ross, and starring one of the best ensemble casts ever to grace a courtroom drama.
Though The Social Network (TSN) has been often derided as simply “The Facebook Movie,” a more adequate oversimplification would be to reduce the film to a courtroom drama. That’s essentially what Fincher’s best film is: A series of legal battles between Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), and Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer). Much like 2012’s Lincoln (written by Tony Kushner and directed by Steven Spielberg), TSN’s strength is taking an otherwise dry, not inherently cinematic premise, and turning it into a captivating piece of filmic drama. Not only does TSN feature some of year’s best dialogue and characterizations, it also demonstrates Fincher’s strongest direction to date and his utter command of visual storytelling.
Right from its opening moments, one can tell TSN is a different breed of movie. The dialogue between Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg and his fictional girlfriend, played by the future Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011), Rooney Mara, is biting, witty, and informs the characters. Once Reznor’s NIN-like score swoops in after their conversation, it sets a tone that holds until the film’s credits — a dark, somber feeling that exposes the vicious ambition, competitiveness, and spite that act as the invisible enforcers behind all human relationships. The majority of the story TSN tells of Facebook’s founding is fictional and highly dramatized, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have plenty of applicability to our current business and social climates.
For that is what TSN is really about: An examination of human relationships, social spheres, and community, both close knit and societal. Social networking in general is about, well, social networks, and TSN understands this inside and out. The film isn’t so much an analysis of Facebook or Zuckerberg in particular as it is a breakdown of human social structure in the digital age.
Visually speaking, TSN is a giant, commanding every conversation with breakneck editing, a plethora of effective montage sequences, and some of the best usage of parallel editing in dramatic film I’ve seen in years. Sorkin provides adequate material for a great sociopolitical drama, as is his strength as a screenwriter, keeping the dialogue short, blunt, and brutal, while Fincher captures most of the drama in wide-shot and always on a tripod. The film has perhaps one handheld shot in the entire story, so the stationary position of each edit, combined with Fincher’s trademark smooth camera-pans and deliberate tracking shots, emphasize the emotional weight of every exchange, every insult, and every clash of egos.
Eisenberg, in particular, gives a great show as a tenacious, vicious, and utterly ruthless nightmare-version of the real-life founder of Facebook. Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg is anything but a lovable loser or a timid nerd. Eisenberg is a tyrant whose ambition knows no limits. He is mean, blunt in the extreme, and, in general, a huge asshole (as multiple women aptly call him in the film). His character and line-delivery in particular are engrossing to watch.
The rest of the cast does a great job as well. Andrew Garfield plays the more sympathetic figure to whom the audience can relate. Timberlake is fun to watch, also, acting as an entertaining medium between Garfield and Eisenberg’s roles. The main Harvard rivals of Eisenberg’s lead are played by Armie Hammer (who does double-duty as both Winklevoss twins) and Max Minghella. All three characters are fun to hate, as well as feel somewhat sorry for, after they absorb the brunt of Eisenberg’s wrath.
The final, yet no less important, ingredient in this cinematic recipe is the brilliant soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. I still to this day do not understand how Reznor and Ross made their electronic synthesizer-sound meld perfectly with the movie’s overall tone and characterizations. Every track is killer and is a joy to listen to. The tunes carry Reznor’s trademark feelings of darkness, dread, and foreboding, and arguably represent what Nine Inch Nail’s Ghosts I-IV (2008) instrumental album should have been.
Altogether, director David Fincher, writer Aaron Sorkin, the entire cast, and score producers Reznor and Ross deliver on a great collaborative effort. The film fires on all cylinders and manages to be both smart and incredibly entertaining. It is a shame that Fincher’s leadership was not recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as it is his finest project amongst a fantastic body of work. Along with Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty (2012), The Social Network represents a monumental moment in the rise of the new millennium generation and the sociopolitical world in which they inhabit. With a stripped-down screenplay, a haunting score, great performances, and Fincher’s ominous direction, The Social Network shows how no one becomes successful without making a few powerful enemies along the way.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: David Fincher directs his finest movie thus far. He stages and shoots drama to capture maximum emotion from every scene. All the flashbacks and courtroom dramas flow organically, thanks in large part to Aaron Sorkin’s great screenplay. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ soundtrack dominates every emotion. This is a drama that will not bore you.
—> The Social Network comes RECOMMENDED.
? I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have every right to give it a try, but there’s no requirement that I enjoy sitting here, listening to people lie! You have part of my attention, you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing. Did I adequately answer your condescending question?