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The Social Network(2010)
A story about the founders of the social-networking website, Facebook.
For more about The Social Network and the The Social Network Blu-ray release, see the The Social Network Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 6, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Josh Pence
» See full cast & crew
The Social Network Blu-ray Review
David Fincher's latest is his greatest.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 6, 2011
The ability to make money doesn't impress anybody around here.
Some directors just "have it." They posses the ability to not only craft one masterwork time and again -- think Sam Mendes, Stanley Kubrick -- but to take any subject material, be it something undeniably profound or superficially trivial, and turn it into a spellbinding tour-de-force of cinema that appeals to every viewer and engages each sense with a unique combination of thematic import, emotional clout, and visual allure. With The Social Network, David Fincher -- already working around the periphery of this exclusive club -- joins this "Goldfinger" fraternity of directors who turn everything they touch into Cinematic treasure, and his "Facebook movie" is arguably the pièce de résistance amongst such films. Bold, imaginative, timely, timeless, and layered with fascinating subtexts that speak on modern society through the prism of the way man lives and interacts in the 21st century, The Social Network is nothing less than an illustrious instant classic that achieves a level of meaning and significance rarely attained by a work of art. Fincher's picture seems superficially trivial and centered on a subject that doesn't appear to lend itself to be more than a quickly forgotten movie of the week, but like the great storytellers of cinema are apt to do, Fincher turns the story of a genius programmer, his website, and his personal and legal trials into a modern day allegory, a reflection of society that's as darkly disturbing as the film is beautifully alluring.
It's the 2003 Fall semester at Harvard, and Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg, Adventureland) is about to embark on a journey that will make him the youngest billionaire in the world. It all starts with a relationship gone south; a recent break-up prompts Mark to blog about his former girlfriend, which in turns spurs him to create a campus-wide social site that allows users to rate the looks of many of the girls on campus. His site gains notice around school, and the university's network is quickly overloaded. Mark is placed on a sixth-month academic probation for his part in crashing Harvard's "sophisticated" network, but schoolwork is furthest from his mind. Word of his coding genius quickly spreads, and he's approached by two high-GPA members of the Harvard crew team, twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer, Josh Pence), to help them create a campus-wide social networking site they've dubbed "Harvard Connection." However, Mark quickly realizes the potential and expands on the idea, and in conjunction with his work on previous web ventures, he puts aside his work on Harvard Connection and concentrates his efforts on a social networking site he calls "The Facebook," a site which catches the attention of the student body. Mark, spurred on by ambition and his fledgeling personal life, enlists friend and fellow student Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) to back the site, serve as its CFO, and help him expand it into other universities' networks. When The Facebook reaches Stanford University on the West Coast, it earns the attention of Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake, The Open Road) who takes Mark under his wing in hopes of riding his coattails to financial and personal success. Told in flashback form, The Social Network also recounts Mark's legal battles as he wards off lawsuits from former colleagues who feel spurned by the dot-com billionaire and who want their piece of the multi-billion-dollar Facebook pie.
What is The Social Network? In a broad, colloquial sense, it's a website that connects people through personal information, photographs, and other user-generated entries that allow users to share their lives with their friends, family, and the world at large. In a smaller context, it's a double entendre film title that defines not only the broader subject material of a computer genius' rise to power and the website he's created, but a metaphor for the personal life that's a direct result of the website he creates and the people with whom he must both necessarily and litigiously co-exist to build his empire of societal dominance that's come to be the defining social structure and the most important digital creation since the advent of the Internet itself. Director David Fincher's film is a masterwork not because of the subject material it covers -- frankly, it is by itself nothing spectacular from an emotional perspective, nor is it necessarily entertaining at a base level considering the generally-accepted definition of that word -- but rather because of the way Fincher uses the story as a microcosm of sorts to highlight the wanton need for social status, power, and wealth in contemporary society, not to mention the litigiousness through which everyone seems to want to ride the coattails of others to easy financial stability. The Internet is the new social hierarchy, the legal system is the new business partnership, and The Social Network is the next great movie, a modern day Wall Street of sorts where greed is the new norm and power is wielded through the click of a mouse, the stroke of a keyboard, and lives and livelihoods are made and squandered with the updating of a status page. Fincher's picture is brilliant in the way it so effortlessly and transparently showcases a brave new world made of, by, and for the young who have crafted their own digital social order and established their dominance not through the sword or even the pen, for the computer is now mightier than both.
The question that remains, then, is whether or not The Social Network is a product of manufactured import, built around David Fincher's uncompromising and unmatched style that's on display with every metaphorically-speaking digitally-flicking frame of the movie. Does his unflappable direction and incredible eye for detail and crafty manipulation of the story make it seem bigger, better, and more relevant than it actually is? The answer is, partially, yes. The Social Network very likely wouldn't be much without a director who knows how to squeeze the most from his subject, but that's true of almost any great film. Few stand on their own merits without the insight and know-how of the storyteller, meaning only a precious few movies are capable of surviving and thriving with a hack at the helm. That's fine, though. An artist's job is to move and manipulate his audience to the beat of his or her work, to craft a finished product that speaks to its audience, whether that product be a still photograph, a picture comprised of brushstrokes and pigments, music created from the strumming of a guitar or a complete orchestra, or a motion picture. In The Social Network, David Fincher finds the greater purpose behind the X's and O's of the story. On paper, it's a story worth telling to be sure, but Fincher finds what it is that allows it to resonante, to become something greater than even the supposed whole, to flesh it out into something that represents a generation -- a way of life, even -- rather than a mere story with a traditional narrative structure. Fincher's film is disturbingly dark both physically and metaphorically. It's not about a person, per se, but a journey into a great unknown, a brave new world, as it were, a new way of existence that at once allows people to both personalize and depersonalize, compartmentalize and attain wholeness within every aspect of one's life, all of it condensed into a picture and a few relevant and irrelevant statistics.
Not only has Fincher capitalized on the story and given it a uniquely dark façade, he's also collaborated with actors and musicians that put the finishing touches on what is unquestionably one of the great films of this generation. Indeed, The Social Network's unheralded star may very well be its music. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have crafted an unmistakably dark score that reflects the picture's deeper themes, as well as Director David Fincher's visual style, perfectly. It's haunting yet alluring, a score that's superficially minimalist but thematically large, the perfect companion to the movie. Fincher's cast is exemplary, too. Jesse Eisenberg -- who before The Social Network was best known as the smart and ultra-cautious but somewhat goofy sidekick in Zombieland -- delivers a performance that transcends his typecast and allows him to demonstrate a range that's, yes, much like the movie's look, themes, and sound, dark and alluring but accesible even under the techno-jargon and power plays that help him develop the site as well as hold his own during the personal, political, legal, and social challenges that follow. He plays the part sharply and manages to give Zuckerberg a personality that's at once both personal and distant. Eisenberg plays the part in such a way that Zuckerberg seems concerned with proving his worth, showing he can create and nurture something and not just profit from it, in a way the opposite of those with whom he must deal on a personal, professional, and legal perspective throughout the film. The dichotomy between Zuckerberg and the other characters is startling; he's in it for himself, and the others -- his supposed friends, longtime enemies, anyone who wants their piece of the pie, justified or not -- are in it for the money. Eisenberg's Zuckerberg seems more intent on outmaneuvering than out-earning his enemies, which gives the movie it's dark dynamic. There are no good guys or bad guys, no winners or losers, just competitors who see in the same thing profit, but profits of different types, profits of the bank account and profits of the mind and soul. The remainder of the cast is sharp, but this is Eisenberg's movie, at least so fas as David Fincher allows him to have it, supported by Aaron Sorkin's Oscar-worthy screenplay that offers some of the zippiest and natural (and naturally-delivered) dialogue around.
The Social Network Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Social Network meets up with Blu-ray, and the resultant 1080p transfer is outstanding. David Fincher's digitally-shot movie serves up an atmospheric visual delight that's oozing with style and an underlying darkness that's captured quite well on Blu-ray. Black levels are superb in every instance, particularly evident in the early nighttime exterior shots around campus and helping to further enhance Fincher's mood throughout. Detail is top-notch as well, the transfer capturing the finest nuances on wet pavement, building façades, faces, and clothes. Colors are steady but rarely, if it all, vibrant; even brighter scenes favor a dull, drab appearance that doesn't do away with colors but doesn't necessarily emphasize them, either. Still, the transfer handles whatever is asked of it professionally and effortlessly, whether the all-too-familiar blue Facebook color or some of the brighter hues that are seen in the Facebook offices late in the movie. Depth is quite good and the transfer doesn't exhibit that flat, overly glossy video-like sheen, helped no doubt by Fincher's generally dark texturing. Noise is practically nonexistent and only a few bouts of banding keep this transfer from perfection. Despite its singular flaw -- a flaw that seems inherent to the source rather than a problem with the Blu-ray itself -- Sony's latest 1080p transfer is a visual marvel through and through.
The Social Network Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Social Network's soundtrack is just as good as its stellar video counterpart. Although background ambience -- for instance bar patron chatter around the primaries at the beginning of the movie -- occasionally gets in the way of and competes with dialogue, the track otherwise proves stalwart in every regard, capturing the most subtle nuances of the excellent score and delivering some of the tightest and most potent bass ever found in what amounts to a talk-heavy Drama. Outdoor scenes spring to life with the perfect amount of environmental ambience that's neither too aggressive nor too reserved. The track gets most of its body from music, whether the almost surreal, sometimes bass-heavy score -- parts of which would be just as at home in a well-made Horror picture as they are here -- or the flamboyant party music that engulfs the soundstage to wonderful effect; the dance club sequence in chapter twelve sucks the listener straight into the locale, and it's rounded out by some of the tightest but most potent LFE this side of the best of the best Action movie Blu-ray soundtracks. Aside from those few instances heretofore noted, dialogue is clean and naturally positioned in the center channel. Much like the movie itself, Sony's soundtrack is full of surprises, and it's far more engaging than the subject material might suggest, not to mention incredibly refined and sonically seamless from beginning to end.
The Social Network Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Social Network delivers extra material spread across two discs. Disc one is home to a pair of audio commentary tracks while disc two features several additional extras, highlighted by a feature-length documentary on the making of the movie. The two-disc set is housed in a nearly all-black fold-open cardboard case, which itself may be placed in a side-loading slipcover which is in turn covered by a more colorful paper sheet. The whole package has a very refined, Criterion-like feel to it, both externally and within the confines of the quality of the technical presentation, the menu system, and the like.
The Social Network Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Social Network is an icon of modern American cinema. Its story is accentuated by a prolific director who understands the art of cinema and turns an otherwise tedious story into a motion picture event, one that's brilliantly captivating and also a reflection of contemporary society -- of what people do and want and how they live -- that may very well be the defining picture of the early 21st century Internet generation. Fincher's masterwork is as relevant as it is beautiful, the picture a symbol not only of a people and an era but a beacon of filmmaking done right. Supported by an exemplary score and a standout lead performance, The Social Network has "Oscar" written all over it. It's only days into January, but Sony's Blu-ray release of The Social Network is already all but guaranteed a spot on 2011's best-of list. A stunning transfer sourced from a near faultless digital master, a mesmerizing lossless soundtrack, and an exceptional supplemental roster easily make this a defining Blu-ray release. The Social Network earns my highest recommendation.
The Social Network: Other Editions
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The Social Network Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray - January 11-17 - January 11, 2011
Recently named the top film of 2010 by the National Society of Film Critics, The Social Network is expected to one of the big winners during the upcoming Academy Awards. A story about the rise of Facebook seemed like an odd choice for director David Fincher after ...
• The Social Network Blu-ray Fast-tracked for January - December 15, 2010
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced The Social Network for Blu-ray release on January 11, 2011. This movie about the creation of Facebook, directed by David Fincher, has earned wide critical acclaim and has just earned six Golden Globe nominations, including ...
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