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Jessie Eisenberg
Justin Timberlake
Andrew Garfield
Rooney Mara
Armie Hammer.
David Fincher.
Aaron Sorkin.
Running Time
120 minutes

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The Social Network
The curious court case of Facebook's founders

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Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) has been dumped by his girlfriend, so, in revenge, he writes a savage blog about her and hacks into all the local college computers to amass a scurrilous website to taunt her and her friends. The site proves incredibly popular, so Zuckerberg develops plans for a social network site called The Facebook, which becomes a near-overnight success. As The Facebook grows, however, Zuckerberg drifts away from his best friend and business partner while infuriating a pair of jocks who claim he has stolen their idea...

The Social Network
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Since making his debut with the disastrous Alien 3, David Fincher has struggled to find material worthy of his indisputable technical talent. This is nothing new; after Stanley Kubrick released Barry Lyndon in 1975 his assistant recalled hearing the nightly thud of books hitting the wall, until at last there was silence: Stanley had picked up Stephen King's The Shining, and the rest, of course, was history. Like Kubrick, Fincher has dabbled in a variety of genres too, but after the mixed reception afforded Benjamin Button, a respectable but strangely lightweight Oscar bid, The Social Network seems an unusual choice, even for him. It's talky, it's dorky, there's very little action, and, in the grand scheme of things, it's almost literally yesterday's news. But it has a quiet power, and, beneath the surface, there's perhaps more going on here than immediately meets the eye.

The Social Network is, first and foremost, about a paradox. It covers the founding of Facebook, a pioneering internet tool that, while bringing the world together, drove five individuals apart, and in doing so made its instigator, 26-year-old former Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, recent history's youngest billionaire. Zuckerberg is played here by Jesse Eisenberg, who is simply superb as the conflicted genius, an emotionally isolated, social-climbing outsider with an unpredictable set of motivations and allegiances. Zuckerberg sets up his groundbreaking website for a number of reasons, partly out of spite, partly out of competition and partly because it's “cool”. But not, it seems, with anything as mundane, or forward-thinking, as a mission statement or a business plan.

Whether the real Zuckerberg is anything like this is another matter, and one that the filmmakers don't much care about (as a minor player says at the end, every creation story needs a demon). But if Zuckerberg is the moustache-twirling villain of this piece, the equally 'real' characters around him function with a similar degree of shorthand. Primarily, there is Andrew Garfield as the fresh-faced Eduardo Saverin, who is Zuckerberg's best friend at Harvard. Saverin gives Zuckerberg the money to start the operation, a loan of £1,000, but as the Facebook project grows, Saverin gets increasingly ostracised by his one-time best bud. In the meantime, also on Zuckerberg's elbow list are the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer and Josh Pence). The twins are star Harvard rowers who employ Zuckerberg to help them develop their own website, but instead of doing what's asked of him, he leads them a merry dance, apparently stalling their project to give himself time to advance his own.

Into this maelstrom of conflict steps Napster founder Sean Parker, played with seductive relish by Justin Timberlake as a louche libertarian who appeals to all of Zuckerberg's most reckless instincts. Parker is presented as the catalyst that turns Zuckerberg from amateur to pro, which he does, over cocktails, with a single anecdote: the sad story of Roy Raymond, the bankrupt 47-year-old founder of Victoria's Secret who committed suicide in 1993 after the company he sold for $4m became a billion-dollar business. Zuckerberg seems to be drinking this in, or as much as he ever seems to be drinking anything in. In fact, part of the fun of Eisenberg's performance is that he never gives anything away, which works nicely alongside the wistful Garfield and Machiavellian Timberlake.

The Social Network's plus points are immediately visible, notably in a long pre-credits scene that sees Zuckerberg in a bar with his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend, Erica (Rooney Mara): Aaron Sorkin's rat-a-tat dialogue is established right there, and it never lets up. Likewise, Fincher's direction – comparatively restrained, except for an exhilarating, kinetic rowing sequence at the Henley Regatta – mostly aims for clarity and tight control. His colour palette is vital to this, being warm, sunny at times and even cosy in darkness, which comes in handy when zig-zagging between two potentially confusing timelines and two distinct court cases. The film's flaws, however, take a little longer to reveal themselves. For one thing, there isn't really that much to invest in; although Fincher gives it the adult veneer of a modern-day All The President's Men, the stakes aren't that high. This is a story in the public domain that's not about the public domain: its key players come from a rarefied world (indeed, the very first incarnation of Facebook, ironically enough, was deliberately exclusive and only available to subscribers with a Harvard email address). There's also the fact that Eisenberg, having dominated the first hour, suddenly steps back to make way for Garfield, and his presence is much missed.

That there's not a vast amount really going on here is beyond dispute, since there are no deaths or murders (so far) in this case, and not only are Zuckerberg's legal woes well documented, they barely add up to a paragraph on his rather skimpy Wikipedia page. So what would attract Sorkin and Fincher, 49 and 48 respectively, to such a slight story? The feeling that leaves the cinema with you is that The Social Network is intended as a portrait of the times, and its understatement is deliberate. Just 20 years ago, Wall Street was doing the same thing but bigger, with giant egos and huge deals. Now, although the payday-potential is even higher, the politics are those of the sandpit not the boardroom. Zuckerberg wants to be special, the centre of attention. Saverin is peeved that his best friend has a new best friend, and won't play with him any more. Meanwhile, the Winklevosses are stamping their feet because can't get a break: why, just because they're rich, they're handsome and they're excellent sportsmen, can't they be smart too? (Fincher has a lot of fun with that.)

It's hard to say how Fincher's film will be received today; indeed, Sorkin's last script, the concise and insightful Charlie Wilson's War still hasn't had its due, and in the UK, The Social Network's allusions to the social hierarchies within the US college system may not strike home. But it does have some interesting things to say, not just about the astonishing power that young people wield in the computer age (remember the line in In The Loop: “You know they're all kids in Washington. It's like Bugsy Malone, but with real guns”) but about the perspective that comes with youth.

The Social Network might even be a black comedy about that; Zuckerberg is obsessed with being cool, popular, first, but is he doing a good thing, and what about the social repercussions of his invention, which has since spread to every corner of the globe? Is he a crook? A rip-off artist? An arch manipulator? Fincher and Sorkin never close the book on any of these allegations, but they don't really need to because, in their version of the story, it doesn't matter. The closing song says it all: The Beatles' Baby You're A Rich Man, which asks the question, “How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?” Zuckerberg doesn't know. But then, as the film slyly suggests, why would he? He's from a logged-in, left-out generation that knows little of beauty and even less of feeling.

A rich, understated character drama that gleefully exposes the petty playground politics at the centre of one of the internet-era's most bitter court cases.

Reviewed by Damon Wise

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Social Network
Empire Star Rating

The Facebook Film

Funny, moving, intelligent and a great performance from Justin Timberlake, who'd have thought it from a film about Facebook. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by midnightrambler1 at 19:46, 30 July 2013 | Report This Post

The Social Network

David Fincher turns a story nobody cared about into a work of art. With great performances, brillant techincal work, and a beautiful script, The Social Network is a modern American classic. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by norgizfox at 14:45, 30 May 2012 | Report This Post

The Social Network Review

Impeccably scripted, beautifully directed, and filled with fine performances, The Social Network is a riveting, ambitious example of modern filmmaking at its finest. I will never forgive the academy for not giving David Fincher the Oscar he desurves. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 15:40, 12 April 2012 | Report This Post

American Classic

This is a true tale American tale of deception, money making, fortune and college (Hehe). Eisenberg just steals the screen without even saying anything, and Garfield finds in himself, the perfect match for a person like Zuckerberg. But Alien 3 wasn't disastrous, at all. That also is an Amercian classic. It was infact, a fine component to the alien series. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by YouWillBeUnprepared at 23:17, 04 April 2012 | Report This Post

More geared to the current genertion

I have only just recently bought The Social Network out curiosity. Being the mother of current generation kids or should I say young adults. I know very little of social networking at all. This certainly does show the change in Zuckerberg as he go from a nerd to a billionaire. I must admit at times I think it moves too slowly and didn't concern itself with the fact people of older generations may not understand it at all. I watch thousands of movies old and new and to be honest this is f... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Adrienne Magee at 05:56, 30 September 2011 | Report This Post


This in my opion is the greatest movie of the twenty first century as it perfectly depicts young people today and how the internet has become part of the social fabric of lfe i have seen this film honestly fourteen times since it came out on dvd and i do not regret one viewing flawless ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by aamoran10 at 20:07, 28 June 2011 | Report This Post


Having an amzing script, being superbly directed and filled to the brim with astounding performances make The Social Network a refreshing and ambitious piece of modern fimmaking. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by djphilips at 10:43, 22 May 2011 | Report This Post


Truly one of best movie of its era, Just Inspiring movie & thought provoking movie. And outstanding performance's from Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, & Screenplay, by Aaran Sorkin is Excellent. & Director David Fincher has done a. Outstanding Movie. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by soulfood at 18:55, 22 April 2011 | Report This Post


Brilliantly adapted, brilliantly structured, brilliant acting, it's just brilliant. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 09:15, 28 March 2011 | Report This Post

RE: The Social Network

I would say this is a good film. Not awful. Not great. I don't understand how some people can say this is their favourite film ever and I don't really see what everyone is so in love with. ... More

Posted by wilky007 at 15:38, 27 March 2011 | Report This Post

effortless movie watching

When initially hearing that there would be a movie about facebook, my eyes rolled. But this is less a movie about facebook and more a movie about friends and betrayal. Usually i define how good a film is by how often i look at my watch and this one was clearly good as i only checked the time after i finished the film The whole film takes us through the birth of facebook and the various people involved with a handy use of flashback/forward using the 2 lawsuits that were thrown at Zuckerburg... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dimski at 00:51, 11 March 2011 | Report This Post

effortless movie watching

When initially hearing that there would be a movie about facebook, my eyes rolled. But this is less a movie about facebook and more a movie about friends and betrayal. Usually i define how good a film is by how often i look at my watch and this one was clearly good as i only checked the time after i finished the film The whole film takes us through the birth of facebook and the various people involved with a handy use of flashback/forward using the 2 lawsuits that were thrown at Zuckerburg... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dimski at 00:51, 11 March 2011 | Report This Post

Entertaining And Intelligent

There's a lot going for this biopic of the Facebook creators and the angry lawsuits that surrounded its' creation. Andrew Garfield is one of the best new actors on the cards at the moment, and his performance here is excellent. Jesse Eisenberg's Mark Zuckerberg takes a little while to get used to due to his eccentric, sometimes bizarre performance, but when that bridge has been crossed, it's really possible to see his talent. The script is solid and witty, but fairly unbelievable in a few minor ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 12:28, 06 March 2011 | Report This Post

I want more

thats how I was feeling when I finished the movie. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by vhoch@acpmagazines at 04:26, 23 February 2011 | Report This Post

RE: The Social Network

Finally got round to watching this over the weekend, fully agree with the 4* review. I can't really find much wrong with it other than a rather flat ending (it just stops fairly abruptly, with no great detail about how the legal cases ended), so that's maybe why it isn't a truly great film, but it's certainly very enjoyable. The major points have already been well highlighted, but here's a few of my own:   ACTING: Pretty sensational throughout, especially Eisenberg, Garfield and e... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BelfastBoy at 13:33, 21 February 2011 | Report This Post

Almost perfect...

Wow, just isn't the word for this. Screenwriter, orkinting this claimed that even though it revolved around the creation of kwasn't really about the social network. This was about its troubled creator, ckerbergs relationships with the few who could bear to close to him.n]It is really about urg'sof social networking ability and that the 21st centuries social revolution was spurred on by a man with not a true friend in the world, having destroyed his only real friendship, with FB's co-founder, ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by neopol at 15:08, 17 February 2011 | Report This Post

first time viewing, good second time...

this really is a five star film, its structure is absolutely amazing, the way the story is told is quite unique. the whole film is a essentially flashbacks from different peoples perspective and we are left thinking did he call the animal cruelty line? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by deza2525 at 11:40, 16 February 2011 | Report This Post

Loved It , great show

The Napster is Right but in my reality Restful and peaceful Sleep seem to be A target now a days . So doing what I do best I will personalize this Film with parallels of my own Life . Where to begin well why not College, a struggle for any one . Will I blame the introduction of Marajuna to my life? Hell No .Will I blame the fact that I refused to cheat at Exams? forcing me to repeat and struggle on . Hell No.Maybe t... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rgod at 17:00, 13 February 2011 | Report This Post

This movie is just breath-taking. It is one of those movies that define generations. I believe that it is, for this generation, what "A Clockwork Orange" was for the 70s, or "Trainspotting" for the 90s. The amazing acting, the brilliant direction, the darkly moody score and the stunningly perfect screenplay make "The Social Network" one of the best movies of the year. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nc_jj at 22:17, 07 January 2011 | Report This Post

Brilliant, but certainly not for everyone

I found The Social Network to be a great movie, centred around magnificent acting and great dialogue, that really carries a film that should be boring. However, it's a movie that will not suit everyone. It sacrifices action for acting, death for dialogue, guns for computers, and really shouldn't appeal to most people who go to movies nowadays. Jesse Eisenberg is exceptional, definitely proving he is far from a poor man's Michael Cera, but in fact multiple times better. Cera is one dimensional... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dahughesy at 21:51, 18 November 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Good review, however...

L: Hywel ...sticking Andrew Garfield's inflated presence for the last hour in the 'flaw' pile is pretty stupid if you ask me. Savarin is the viewer's way in to the movie, the only reason I cared about what happened plot-wise was because of Garfield's performance. otally agree, the aloof and hubristic Zuckerberg isn't as compelling as Garfield's superb performance, particularly in the electrifying confrontation in the ambush scene at the HQ. ... More

Posted by Darth Marenghi at 19:55, 12 November 2010 | Report This Post

Good review, however...

...sticking Andrew Garfield's inflated presence for the last hour in the 'flaw' pile is pretty stupid if you ask me. Savarin is the viewer's way in to the movie, the only reason I cared about what happened plot-wise was because of Garfield's performance. Overall, 5 stars. Couldn't find a single thing wrong with this movie, the fact that it moved so fast was itself a comment on the times in which it is set. This will repay repeat viewing just to be able to separate the nuances of every single... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Hywel at 08:06, 12 November 2010 | Report This Post

The Social Network covers the story of very beginnings of Facebook. Zuckerberg gets slightly carried away with the overnight success of his social networking website which develops into not just one but numerous political court battles. I never really expected this to be a good film, "how can you make the story of a social networking site of interest"? I said to myself. Well how wrong was I. This dark drama involves ambition, greed and treachery. Mark Zuckerberg proves that no matt... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by zedphelan at 20:18, 05 November 2010 | Report This Post

tp://]The Social Network film about Facebook. How can that ever be interesting? In The Social Network David Fincher and script write Aaron Sorkin show us how it`s done. The razor sharp dialogue that we know from the Sorkin written tv show The West Wing are flying by you left and right. Especially in the first half hour the pace is really high and you need to keep focussed. After that Fincher takes it back a little in order to give the story and its character a chanc... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 20:00, 05 November 2010 | Report This Post

It comes with a 'Like it' button.

There's something terribly discomforting in David Fincher's treatment of Facebook's birth story. A glib, opaque quality that materializes itself in the routine of visual, sensory pleasures that pulls us further and further away from the importance of the contemporary history. And it's that more apparent since Social Network is so well written and so precisely, well made. Like a thoughtfuly constructed action film, Social Network rushes through tons of dialogue towards its set pieces- sequen... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr Oki at 12:37, 05 November 2010 | Report This Post

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