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The Social Network cover

Blu-ray Reviews: The Social Network

Originally published in Sound and Image, April 2011, v.24#05
Last updated 25 February 2013

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The Social Network
2010 - Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Australia
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Rooney Mara, Joseph Mazzello, Patrick Mapel, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, Justin Timberlake and Douglas Urbanski

Movie: 5 Picture: 5 Sound: 5 Extras: 4.5

I shall make a confession at the outset: I had strong prejudices against this movie. It isn't truthful. Or so most of the major participants in it claim.

In my perhaps simplistic world view there are two categories of entertainment product: invention and reporting. When a movie is invention but uses the real names of dozens of real people, and is about their involvement with each other and the creation of a real product, but much or most is fiction, then what is there to separate it from one of those old hagiographic Disney biopics?

Well, in the case of The Social Network, what separates it is David Fincher. Last issue we related the director's travails with Alien 3. Since then studio executives have come to recognise that it's far better to let him do his thing unimpeded. Doing so produces both great art and box office magic. $US220 million in the worldwide box office for a movie about a bunch of geeks creating Facebook is a pretty impressive.

Also helping things along are just about perfect performances from the leads, especially Jesse Eisenberg. He produces a Mark Zuckerberg of combined rapid fire talk, occasional Asbergery disengagement, and intimidating intellect. Switch yourself on, however you do it, before the movie starts. The high-speed dialogue starts almost instantly.

Just try to remember that this is fiction -- or enough of it is that it's safest to assume the whole of it is. Sadly, it's almost certain that this movie will come to represent the popular belief with regard to the development of Facebook. Because this movie is so good that it leaves you truly wanting to believe that it is truth.

On Blu-ray this movie package comes on two discs. The movie itself is on one. It is pretty much alone on the disc, with the only extras being a couple of commentary tracks and the standard Sony test patterns (dial 7669 on your remote when the main menu is showing). Oh, and you get persistent bookmarks too and Sony's standard BD-Live portal.

The other disc has a 93 minute doco, plus another 71 minutes of featurettes, all in 1080p24 video.

The video and sound of this release are both presented flawlessly throughout. Even though 24 bit sound is employed, the DTS-HD Master Audio bitrate is kept to under 3Mbps, suggesting that it was pretty cleanly recorded (or perhaps a few of the least significant bits were filtered out).

A frame from the movie

So all was flawless, but there are two sequences which rise above even the description of flawless and so deserve close examination. One of the most startling parts of the film is a section which involves the Henley Royal Regatta rowing race in the UK. This used a highly unusual effect which, in physical photography, is achieved by employing a tilt-lens. This makes the apparent depth of field much, much shallower than is normal, so that the subject is in close focus, but the immediate foreground, and close background are out of focus. This plays tricks on the human eye and mind, making the scene look like it has been faked using miniatures and close photography.

Over a couple of minutes this effect continues as the race proceeds, accompanied by Grieg's 'In the Hall of the Mountain King', acting like a punctuation point in the movie. But listen to David Fincher's commentary track over this section and you will discover that in this case artistry was driven by expedience. His talent is, in part, producing beauty from necessity.

The other scene is a conversation between two of the leads in the Ruby Skye club. The dialogue is barely audible over the pounding music. Understanding it was borderline. Normally I'd criticise this kind of thing, but this scene was only a few minutes long, the dialogue was in fact coherent enough, and the net result was to make you strain to hear, just as you do when you're in such a club yourself. Intentional? Well, I had already written the forgoing before finding a special extra devoted to this scene. Considerable effort was expended to achieve precisely this effect.

Running time: 120 minutes
Picture: 2.35:1, 1080p24, MPEG4 AVC @ 25.91Mbps
Sound: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 24/48 3/2.1 @ 2923kbps; Spanish: DTS-HD Master Audio 24/48 3/2.1 @ 2896kbps; Italian: DTS-HD Master Audio 24/48 3/2.1 @ 2926kbps - (core for all three: DTS 16/48 3/2.1 @ 1509kbps); English Audio Descriptive: Dolby Digital 3/2.1 @ 640kbps; Catalan: Dolby Digital 3/2.1 @ 448kbps; 2 x Commentary: Dolby Digital Surround 2/0.0 @ 192kbps
Subtitles: English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Italian, Spanish, Catalan (Titles), Italian (Commentary 1), Spanish (Commentary 1), Italian (Commentary 2), Spanish (Commentary 2)
Extras: Documentary (1080p24 - 93 mins); 9 Featurettes (1080p24 - 71 mins); 7669 Test Patterns (1080p24 - 1 min)
Restrictions: Rated M (Australian rating); Region Free

The following video bitrate graph was generated by BDInfo 0.5.7:

The Social Network video bitrate graph

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