It’s not hard to imagine that a biopic of the creation of facebook – a project that isn’t even complete as its rise to world domination continues unabated – could be monumentally bad. For a start all of the characters in the movie are real, alive and known litigation junkies. In fact the structure of the film is built around litigation.
What’s more, it’s set in geek land, and it’s populated by America’s landed money generation; a class of kids who are not exactly imbued with likeability. Add to that the layer of egotism of successful entrepreneurs, that has to be applied if this is going to be a true reflection of the situation. And early on the movie dwells on a scene where the two key characters get off on the creation of an algorithm in a Harvard dorm and we’re in a place that has to be bad; does it not?
Well actually, no it doesn’t, in fact I can’t recall a biopic with such historical realism that betters this magnificent creation.
David Fincher is a director of some impact. Fight Club and se7en, to name but two of his grisliest creations, typically hit you hard from the off and keep on hitting. Not the sort of director you’d expect to be behind a successful exploration of coding in the Ivy League’s finest Halls of residence. But what Fincher does is dial back the excess and zone in on a cast of young people that somehow creates a magnificent and fully fleshed ensemble whilst giving Jesse Eissenberg the star vehicle that at its core it has to be. His portrayal of Mark Zuckenberg has to be seen to be believed. And believe me you’ll believe it. This is direction and acting of the highest calibre.
The establishing scene of Eissenberg in a College Union bar being dumped by his lifetime love Erica Albright (played gently and beautifully by Rooney Mara) is jaw-droppingly good for three reasons; the camera work (subtle and gorgeous throughout especially the tilt shift effect later in the movie in England’s Henley), the dialogue (well what did you expect, Aaron Sorkin wrote the script) and the acting. And that’s it. We’re off and running for nearly two hours where the action never stops for a second and yet,; not a swear word is heard, no fights, no sex, no nudity, no special effects – so how can this be an action movie?
And yet it is, it’s hilarious (but there are no gags, no slapstick) and it makes you think from start to finish. Because what Fincher and Sorkin have achieved is a morality tale for our time; not with the big crass in-your-faceness that Wall Street revels in, but in the intellectual ethics of Intellectual Property (IP). Wherever you look in the movie you’re challenged to think who was right and who was wrong.
IP changes hands and evolves at a dizzying speed – one wonders whether it was it the germ of the idea or its evolution that created Facebook’s value. Was Napster creator and serial entrepreneur Sean Parker (slyly played by Justin Trousersnake) a bandwagon-jumping opportunist or the real creator of Zuckerberg’s ultimate wealth? Was Zuckerberg an impressionable but loveable innocent or a self-centred traitor to his only friend Eduardo Severin (also played sympathetically and at times the axis of the movie by Andrew Garfeild)? Was Severin a philanthropist or a pariah and were the Winklevosses (I lied, there are special effects in this movie) real? I particularly liked the fact that Sorkin and Fincher avoided the temptation to rip into these ridiculous stereotypes and, in so doing, gave them at least a shred of dignity by the film’s end.
Oh, did I mention the stunning soundtrack by Trent Reznor (NIN)? Well, if I didn’t I should have because I’m going to buy the CD as soon as I’ve finished this review.
This is a very good film indeed. It most certainly justifies a ten rating and I urge you to see it.
PS. My pal did a show during the festival with this hilarious song in it. I leave it for you to enjoy.