Showcasing a more stylistically static David Fincher than we're used to, for the first time since Fight Club, his direction doesn't so much elevate the material as compliment it. Aaron Sorkin's script is such a rare beast; four or five skilled directors could have knocked it out of the park - but the fact that Fincher does so with such panache will surprise few. Both men have crafted a film with almost seamless cohesion of the filmmaking elements; it's a courtroom drama, a sharp comedy, a fascinating biopic - all of these things, and more. It's also impressively compelling and utterly enthralling stuff.
Opening with a revealing conversation that successfully sets the tone for the two hours that follow, we are introduced to Jesse Eisenberg's Harvard student, Mark Zuckerberg and his girlfriend, played by Rooney Mara. Obviously a smart guy, he manages to convey insecurity and arrogance almost within the same breath. After she breaks up with him in the midst of a rapid-fire conversation, he heads back to his dorm room looking for a form of distraction. Whilst blogging insults for his now ex, and getting drunk, he hacks into Harvard's computer system and creates 'facemash.com,' where students can rate other students in terms of hotness - against each other. The site gets him noticed by prominent campus siblings, the Winklevoss's, who offer him a gig programming their dating/networking site 'Harvard Connection.' When Mark comes up with his own idea for a social networking site, Thefacebook.com, his best mate Eduardo (an excellent Garfield) bankrolls him, and becomes CFO of what will ultimately become Facebook. But with the sites explosion of popularity comes conflict as The Winklevoss's and his former best mate simultaneously sue him, which is where the film tells its story from - the dispositions of those cases.
Few who use Facebook regularly will realise the intricacies of its incredible inception at the hands of Zuckerberg and some college friends. The script paints him as driven, spiteful, frighteningly intelligent but also curiously naive; he doesn't care for money, and the whole reason for the creation of facebook seems to stem back to some form of social acceptance. To the more amiable Eduardo, these things come easy, and both actors are near faultless in their portrayals.
With the exception of one impressive rowing sequence, Fincher reigns in the ostentatious camera work and lets Sorkin's riveting script do the legwork. His finger prints are still all over it; you know when you're watching a David Fincher film almost instantly. The Trent Reznor score and off-colour palettes are equally foreboding and inviting - almost a contradiction of ostensibly straight-up material. His attention to detail is still second to none, and there is one particular effect that will boggle your mind when you figure it out - probably a few hours later.
The Social Network is the kind of film that begs for a second viewing, at the very least, to fully comprehend the motivations, or lack thereof, of its perplexing protagonist. It's hard to imagine a better film out of this material, or a more relevant one. Expect some well-deserved Oscars.