Complete A-Z list

Social Network, The


Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara, Armie Hammer, Josh Pence, Rashida Jones, Joseph Mazzello, Max Minghella, David Selby, Wallace Langham, Scott Lawrence

Director: David Fincher

Making a film about social website sensation Facebook, where you can connect with and read about your friends, would seem to be a tricky proposition. How do you make such a seemingly dry and technical subject into entertainment? Writer Aaron Sorkin, the brains behind The West Wing, tackles the problem with considerable success by concentrating on the personalities involved, and turning their story into a classic tale of success, betrayal and revenge.

The central character, of course, is Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg (Eisenberg), a brilliant, self-absorbed computer genius who, contemptuous of all lesser mortals, talks at the same speed as his fingers flash over the keyboard, and can't keep a girlfriend.

We meet him breaking up with Erica (Mara, soon to star in the Hollywood version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). Storming back to his room, his trashing of her on his computer turns into devising a site which takes photos of girl students from the university face book and asks fellow students to choose the hottest. The site soon has so many hits that the Harvard computer system crashes.

That brings Mark to the attention of the Winklevoss brothers (Hammer & Pence, who look just like brothers), star oarsmen and budding entrepreneurs, who invite him to create a Harvard site. While agreeing, Mark secretly works on his own creation 'The', which, by the time the Winklevosses cotton on, is up and running - bankrolled by Eduardo (Garfield), Mark's only real friend.

The brothers threaten physical action ' 'We can do that,' says one, 'I'm 6-5, 220 pounds and there's two of me' - then sue.

Meanwhile, Mark has fallen under the influence of unscrupulous Napster founder Sean Parker (Timberlake), who brings Facebook to the attention of California's venture capitalists - and deals Eduardo out.

The story as seen by Sorkin plays like a Greek tragedy, with strongly intense performances from Eisenberg and Garfield. Zuckerberg himself, now America's youngest billionaire, remains an enigma to the end. It's impossible to tell what he's really thinking about outside of his computer world, and maybe Sorkin intends to leave it that way.

David Quinlan

USA 2010. UK Distributor: Sony (Columbia). Colour by deluxe.
120 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 09 Oct 2010