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THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella
Director: David Fincher
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Sony
Features: See Review
Length: 120 Minutes
Release Date: January 11, 2011

You know, you really don't need a forensics team to get to the bottom of this. If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you'd have invented Facebook.”

Film ****

It's hard to think of another film that has come around at a more appropriate time than the engrossing masterpiece that is The Social Network. It really is one of those rare cinematic accomplishments that can be fittingly defined as a film of a generation. It goes without saying that, for me, this is the best film of 2010.

Who knew that there lay such a monumental scandal behind the creation of a little online site called Facebook? I certainly didn't until I found out about this film going into production. At first, the idea of a movie about Facebook didn't sound particularly engaging to me...but when I heard that it was going to be brought to us by the brilliant talents of writer Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher, any bit of skepticism was instantly replaced by giddy anticipation.

Sorkin claims to have no knowledge of Facebook before signing onto this project. But as it turns out, he didn't need to know a thing about it. By adapting Ben Mezrich's tell all book, “The Accidental Billionaires”, Sorkin, a gifted master of fast paced and razor sharp dialogue, crafted an absorbing screenplay that actually uses the creation of Facebook as the backdrop for an amazing character study, as well as one of the most original courtroom dramas to ever grace the screen.

And Fincher's masterful filmmaking enhances Sorkin's powerful script even more so. Watching the film, you can't help but be awestruck by the brilliant editing, the visually engaging cinematography (as always expected in a Fincher film) and the incorporation of a mind-blowingly unique music score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Anyone familiar with Fincher's directorial style knows that he is every bit the perfectionist, and he must be applauded for overseeing how each filmmaking aspect turned out.

The central focus of this story, of course, is Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), the Harvard student who would go on to create Facebook and become the world's youngest billionaire as a result. The film wastes no time in painting Zuckerberg in an unlikable fashion, and yet I found myself captivated to the point where I found him to be perhaps the most riveting character in any film this year. This has to be a first, because I honestly can't think of another film where a lead character was so despicable, and yet you never wanted them to leave the screen.

The film's opening scene is one of a kind, as it shows Zuckerberg engaging in a conversation in a college bar with his girlfriend, Erica (Rooney Mara). This exchange of words reveals Mark to be not the most flattering individual, and it ends with her dumping him. “Dating you is like dating a stair master.”, she tells him.

This low blow immediately motivates Mark to proceed to his dorm room, switch on his computer and post some harsh details about her on his blog. This then leads to him creating an online site called Facemash, which allows people to choose which of any two campus girls looks better. Before the night is over, Mark's creation has attracted the attention of every dorm on campus, resulting in the crashing Harvard's entire network.

He receives academic probation for his actions, which also attract the attention of twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer). They confront Mark with a proposition; to help create a online social network exclusive to Harvard students called The Harvard Connection. He agrees to serve as their programmer.

However, Mark decides to concoct a plan to expand on the proposed idea, without the knowledge of the Winklevoss twins.

He presents his concept to his only friend on campus, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). The two become business partners and proceed to create what is then known as The Facebook.

As these events unfold, the story periodically shifts years later as Mark finds himself in the middle of two depositions. One has him being sued by the Winklevoss' for stealing their idea, while the other has him being sued by Eduardo for a whopping $600 million. By this point, we know why the first deposition is taking place, but the purpose of the second one will be revealed later.

Once The Facebook expands to colleges outside of Harvard, Mark's creation catches the attention of Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the founder of Napster. Who better to understand Mark and his motives than the guy who helped revolutionize how music could be accessed online. He sets up a meeting with Mark and Eduardo, convincing them that they should both move out to California and join forces with him, as well as suggesting that it should be known simply as Facebook.

It is at this point when Mark and Eduardo begin to differ on the future of the site. Eduardo isn't too impressed with Sean and doesn't much like the notion of him becoming a partner on their site. But before long, Mark has taken a group of programmers and relocated to California, leaving Eduardo in the dust. Things manage to get even more ugly down the road between the one time best friends.

I honestly do think that this will stand as one of the few movies in existence to capture a moment in contemporary culture during its release. The fact that The Social Network does this so remarkably well makes it an even more potent cinematic experience. Then again, would we ever expect anything less from the likes of Sorkin and Fincher?

The acting in this film is absolutely terrific across the boards, and it's safe to say that we are going to see many careers take off as a result. Andrew Garfield has already become the next Spider-Man and Rooney Mara has been cast in the lead role for Fincher's upcoming remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. And Justin Timberlake, having already delivered some amazing supporting work in Alpha Dog and Black Snake Moan, has illustrated now more than that he is a truly successful double threat with a performance that nearly steals the movie.

But in the end this film belongs to Jesse Eisenberg, an actor I've admired ever since I first saw The Squid and the Whale. I've always found him an eccentrically charismatic actor, bringing a unique level of personality to each role he plays. Mark Zuckerberg is one of the most engaging film characters of the past twenty years, and it is in large part due to what Eisenberg has brought to the role, which no other actor could have been capable of. Although he won't win Best Actor at this year's Oscars, he would unquestionably be my pick!

The Social Network is a superb masterpiece on ever imaginable level! The writing is at the level that every film should be at, as are the directing, acting, cinematography, editing, music and so on and so forth! It is the best film of 2010, and deserves every single Oscar that is likely to come its way!

Video ****

I can't stress this enough...Blu-ray is THE ONLY format you should go about experiencing this film in! That pretty much goes for any and all David Fincher films. Cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth worked with Fincher on Fight Club, which should give you a hint of how vital the look of this film is. Fincher's use of the Red camera, combined with his precise use of colors and lighting for each individual shot add up to a mesmerizing viewing experience in the 1080p, which enhances the look even more. There's so much amazing detail to be found in every frame, and there's nothing like a film that is able to absorb you in both its look and story at the same time. We're early in the year, but I wouldn't be surprised if this title is mentioned for Best Video at the next DMC Awards!

Audio ****

Again, sound in a Fincher film is definitely a key ingredient, and the DTS HD mix on this release illustrates that beautifully. This is a dialogue-oriented film first and foremost, but Fincher nonetheless establishes a marvelously effective sound design. The main highlight is the handling of the amazingly original music score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Every note of the composed score is heard through the channels in a flat out remarkable form. I should make mention of a sequence set in a dance club in which the music nearly overpowers a conversation between two characters. Listen in as carefully as you can, or you may need to pop on the subtitles. At any rate, that's how the scene was intended! An all around excellent job!

Features ****

We're only several weeks into the new year and Sony is already on a role as far as providing standout extras on their releases (see Piranha review). Here, we get a two disc release and if you're at all familiar David Fincher, you know that he is fan of bonus materials as much as we are! The entire release is at the level of a Criterion release, most of all in the supplements department. One Disc One, we get two outstanding commentaries. The first one features Fincher, who is open and honest in his tellings as he always is. The second one features Aaron Sorkin and cast members Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer and Josh Pence. Not everyone was recorded at once, but it's nonetheless cut together superbly well and result in, what I think, is one of the best commentaries of recent memory.

Disc Two contains extensive behind the scenes material, starting with a 90 minute documentary titled “How Did They Make Movie of Facebook?”, which is divided in four parts and features in-depth interviews with various cast and crew members, done in the style of video confessions which is certainly a neat touch. Also included is a featurette on the visuals featuring David Fincher and cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, a segment with editors Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter and sound designer Ren Klyce about Post-production work, a terrific piece with Fincher, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on the Score, a Multi-Angle Scene Breakdown of the Ruby Skye VIP Room sequence, a look at Trent Reznor's first draft of his take on “In the Hall of the Mountain King” and a final featurette which takes a look at a fascinating instrument Reznor used called the “Swarmatron”.

Summary:

The Social Network is both a masterpiece in terms of both film and Blu-ray release. All the immense acclaim this film has received is extremely deserved! The collaboration of David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin has resulted in a film that you could actually say is larger than life!

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