By Arthur Briggs

Film director David Fincher seems intent on becoming the master of making the uninteresting interesting. His latest effort, The Social Network, exemplifies that: it’s a movie about corporate law.

I’m not kidding.

Much of the film is told through depositions for two separate court cases Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) faced. In the first, Zuckerberg was accused of intellectual property theft by two 6’ 5” Olympic rowers (and twins), Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss. In the second, he was accused of ripping off his initial investor, Eduardo Saverin.

Intellectual property law and corporate squabbles typically affect me like a double dose of Nyquil. And yet The Social Network had me fully engaged.

As with Zodiac, a terrific 2007 thriller also directed by Fincher, The Social Network is a semi-factual fictional film involving material which initially struck me as not inherently cinematic.  Zodiac deals with the story of the infamous Zodiac killer, but it does so by telling the story of the investigators and reporters who attempted to identify the killer, whose identity still remains unresolved.

In both of these films, Fincher creates realistic and convincing characters thrust into a difficult situation of both strategic and moral complexity. Even though that situation may be ultimately unresolved (Zodiac) or initially difficult for most people to relate to (The Social Network), both films show the characters acting realistically and understandably according to discernible and plausible motives,  and the situations are not overdramatized.

A good example is one’s reaction to Zuckerberg as The Social Network progresses. At first I found him amusing and clever. I was secretly rooting for him, even as he mercilessly pushed people aside to reach his goals. As the film moved forward, however, my perception of Zuckerberg and my attitude toward him evolved, eventually settling on disgust. Fincher manages to set up the viewer’s expectations of the characters to invoke certain conclusions about them, and he then decimates those expectations in surprising ways.

Much of this is likely attributable in great part to an excellent screenplay by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, Charlie Wilson’s War) and the nuanced performances turned in the by the leads.

All that said, The Social Network is an extremely interesting and well-done film. It’s a little long and rambling at times, but it certainly held my attention. Though it doesn’t really break any new cinematic ground, it is, quite simply, a pretty damn good flick. I give it an A-.