Last weekend the actor Jesse Eisenberg was cast in the forthcoming Warner Brothers picture that will serve as the sequel to Zack Snyder's Man of Steel (2013). Eisenberg has been cast as the iconic villain Lex Luthor which of course has garnered the usual ridiculous responses that are now an endemic part of the modern dynamics of digital and social culture. When I was reading the responses to Eisenberg's casting it ironically made me remember the time when Eisenberg played Marc Zuckerberg, the founder of the social networking site Facebook; a site that came to define the social and digital interactions of a generation. The birth of Facebook is covered in director David Fincher's Oscar nominated The Social Network (2010).

The movie itself focuses on the conception of the website from Harvard Bostonians Zuckerberg and his CFO Eduardo Saverin (played by Andrew Garfield) and its organic (or inorganic as the movie suggests) growth to the website that millions of people now know and love. The legal wrangling that ensued is also covered in the movie as Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin present what is a modern classic.

David Fincher is a director who is one of the best working today, he is the former music video director who killed off the iconic characters of Newt and Corporal Hicks in the wildly mismanaged yet visually stunning Alien 3 (1992). He then gave us the iconic serial killer movie Se7en (1995) and the violently subversive Fight Club (1999) which saw him team up withBrad Pitt again. He was even willing to go against his own narrative aesthetic and direct The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). Fincher directed a wonderful adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) and he has just worked with Ben Affleck and the wonderful British actress Rosamund Pike on the adaptation of Gillian Flynn's novel Gone Girl (2014). I mention these pictures because they display a director in complete control of script, narrative, actors and visual imagery, however it is his 2007 movie Zodiac that informs The Social Network more than any other.

In Zodiac Fincher depicts real events that by their nature are genre-defined and iconic in terms of their American cultural resonance; he then presents those events in an understated manner while also offering flourishes of directorial beauty and nuance that actually project a stunning expansive scope of both to the events being depicted and the director's own genius. This skill is in complete opposition to some of Fincher's contemporaries like Oliver Stone and it sets him apart. The key element with the The Social Network is the fact that while many of the events depicted occurred, what Fincher and screenwriter Sorkin manage to do is to present their own take on these individuals and of course Zuckerberg himself. The key thing here is the fact that the movie has a cynical edge to it so it is almost as if the creative team behind the motion picture are unsettled by the prominence of our own digital lives and offer an indictment on it that is overtly illustrated by the last scene of the movie.

  • Andrew Garfield in The Social Network (2010)

The script is wonderful and Sorkin displays a tender and incendiary touch to the dialogue in which the pentameter of the spoken word is deftly played by Jesse Eisenberg in the lead role. Fincher also uses matte painting and effects as they should be used, they are invisible to the naked eye.

The supporting cast is superb, Justin Timberlake brings all of the charismatic charm of a music producer into his role (Fincher would later team up with him again for the visually stunning music video 'Suit and Tie' in 2013). Armie Hammer is superb as he plays two roles via digital enhancement which is aided by Josh Pence's body while Andrew Garfield is such a warm and charismatic presence that he offers a wonderful counterpoint to Eisenberg's aggressive charisma. Rooney Mara (in a minor role, before she was cast by Fincher as Lisbeth Salander) is great as is Brenda Song, and it is also a prominent factor to me that the movie displays an undercurrent of misogyny without surrendering its narrative choices to embracing it (if only Martin Scorsese had watched this movie before shooting his current hit The Wolf of Wall Street).

The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is beautiful and again Fincher and his cinematographer Jeff Cronenworth clearly understand how to shoot with the softer colour palettes offered by digital photography. Their work stands out more because the movie actually looks like Zodiac despite the fact that the former movie was shot by Harry Savides who sadly died in 2012; the movie is a telling tribute to his genius that should not go unmentioned.

So as Jesse Eisenberg garners much attention for his new role it is worth remembering that he starred in one of the best movies of the past decade. David Fincher in 2010 provided one of the best movies of that year and also extracted a wonderful performance from his star.