herald

Monday 20 August 2018

Face off for internet business buddies

COMPUTERS and movies don't always equal entertainment. Sure, 2001: A Space Odyssey's Hal is still creepy to this day, but computers have also given us the risible The Net, with Sandra Bullock, and Die Hard 4:0, featuring Bruce Willis battling a geek with a keyboard. Gripping? Not quite.

But director David Fincher was smart enough to make humanity, not machinery, the focus of The Social Network, a take on the rise of the Facebook phenomenon that created billionaires and divided pals.

Friendship, betrayal, lust, social climbing -- this is 21st-century Shakespeare.

It starts in 2003 with Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (an excellent Jesse Eisbenberg) getting dumped by girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). In a drunken hissy fit, he rebounds from her by creating a website to rate the hotness of the females on campus, with the help of pal Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield).

Sexiness sells on the Net, and the feeding frenzy of students logging on crashes the university's network -- and gets Zuckenberg put on probation by the college authorities for six months.

Along the way he reaches a deal with the cool Waspish Winklevoss twins and business partner Divya Narenda to create the Harvard Connection site. But he soon falls out with them, as they accuse him of plagiarising their ideas when he and Eduardo launch a site called Thefacebook. Soon it's on the radar of Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), and brought to the world through Silicon Valley's venture capitalists. Amid this rise is another falling out, as Zuckerberg sides with Parker and Saverin feels muscled out.

Told in flashbacks, we see Zuckerberg fighting lawsuits from the Winklevoss twins and from old pal Eduardo too. It's part-fact, part-fantasy -- a bit like the equally excellent Damned United.

It's up for eight Oscars tomorrow night, and while it's not quite good enough to sweep the boards, it's an incredible testament to cast and crew that a film about technology could be so engaging.

DVD extras: Two commentary tracks and a full disc of making-of material, including a feature-length behind-the-scenes documentary.

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