Verdict: Likes this.
It's not much of a name for a film really. Then again Facebook isn't much of a name for something which has the regular attention of a billion eyeballs. But The Social Network isn't really about Facebook's progression to online ubiquity.
It's about how ideas come to be - and get turned into fortunes. How social standing can diminish the potential of even the smartest guy the room. And about an old adage on creativity: Talent borrows, genius steals...
It's also about a really good time at the movies. It's got zinger dialogue, care of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin who perfected his verbal ping-pong technique on The West Wing. And one cleverly constructed to clarify the, er, web of lawsuits that sprung up in the wake of Facebook's success and supergeek founder Mark Zuckerberg becoming the world's youngest billionaire.
Director Fincher still brings his trademark designer-grim visual sensibilities to bear on what is his most conventional, but arguably best, movie yet, aided by a soundtrack from Trent Reznor which helps find a heartbeat in its own digital clutter.
Surprisingly, for a film so cyber-minded this doesn't default once to shots of cursors moving across screens or scrolling lines of code to show the complicated mind of hacker/developer Zuckerberg.
It doesn't need to, care of a performance by Eisenberg which gives Zuckerberg a full set of personality tics but also convinces as a portrait of an outsider-genius who may have just been a backroom boffin in another age.
He's disloyal, insensitive, borderline misogynist (his initial post bad-date blog posting which got Facebook rolling from his Harvard dorm room and delivered verbatim here suggests as much), alienated and lonely in his self-involved world. But Eisenberg makes him something compelling.
So, too, is Timberlake as Napster huckster Sean Parker who helps introduce Zuckerberg to the high life and Facebook to Silicon Valley and worldwide domination. The real Parker does not much look like a pop star, even if he was known to behave like one.
And the film, based by Sorkin on the work of journalist Ben Mezrich for his book The Accidental Billionaires, and many a court deposition, undoubtedly takes a few liberties with events.
But it gives the various characters time to make their case - sometimes literally with some electrifying scenes in legal firm boardrooms - about their part in Facebook's creation, then lets us weigh each of them up.
That balancing act, with its shades of a multiple-perspective Rashomon helps gives The Social Network its very own wicked web.
Getting caught up in it is fascinating, funny and thrilling: even, I suspect, for the social media-averse.
It would be enough that a film about the seemingly dry subject of a website and its awkward inventor rose to the level of engaging. But The Social Network turns out not just to be the best film of the dot.com era, but very likely the film of the year.
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, Andrew Garfield
Director: David Fincher
Rating: M (offensive language)
Running time: 120 mins
-TimeOutBy Russell Baillie @RBaillieNZH Email Russell