A film about Mark Zuckerburg creating Facebook just didn’t seem destined for greatness. According to the script, it was supposed to be another generic Oscar-bait biopic (coughcoughcough americansniper coughcoughcough) that would get some praise and awards, but then fade from everybody’s memory not long after getting dumped onto Blu-ray. What the cleverly titled The Social Network actually wound up being, however, was a smart, gripping, and utterly engrossing modern classic.
One of the biggest things The Social Network gets right that most other films of its type don’t is honesty. If Zuckerburg (Jesse Eisenberg) was portrayed as some blandly nice guy who just wanted to help the world with his creation, then I wouldn’t have liked the film at all. Instead, played with gripping authenticity by Jesse Eisenberg, he’s a fast-talking, fast-thinking jerk who’s not afraid to screw over his closest companions, and first comes up with the idea for Facebook by comparing girls on his college campus to farm animals.
Yes, not all of that happened in real life, but a very, very large amount of it did—and the things the film does slightly cheat on (such as an invented ex-girlfriend for Zuckerburg named Erica, and the clearly exaggerated nature of the party scenes) are actually pretty insignificant, all things considered. Compare that with American Sniper, which was so out of touch with ex-Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s real life that it was nearly laughable.
However, The Social Network isn’t compelling because of how cool of an idea Facebook was, which a lesser film would have fallen back on in no time. It’s compelling because you’re watching this talented person manipulate everyone to get what he wants, gaining lots of money and fame in the process. It’s compelling because you’re watching him slowly lose the trust and admiration of his best friend (Armie Hammer) as a result of this, which finally runs out after one particularly shocking revelation.
It’s compelling because you’re watching how Zuckerburg’s actions affect everybody around him, and anger twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss so much that they nearly take him to federal court. It’s compelling because you’re not watching a blind glorification of technology, but actually a chillingly plausible look at the conflict, greed, and betrayal that can come from seemingly great ideas.
Finally, The Social Network is compelling because it’s not only flawlessly written, but also flawlessly made. David Fincher directs it with a chilly, clinical, yet subtly colorful mastery that beautifully tints every single shot without becoming gimmicky or flashy, and the Oscar-winning score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is alternatively haunting, energetic, and harshly brittle. Not the slightest glitch or bug is to be found in this film, and the fact that no other biopics I’ve seen have learned a few things from it is just sad.
NOTE: This is the first film I’ve ever reviewed twice. The first time I reviewed it was around September 2019, and it was published on my previous website (the Weebly-powered “Cool Cat Studio”). At the time, my skills as a writer and critic hadn’t quite blossomed yet, so the serious drop of quality you might notice there is purely incidental.