If you distill this movie to the plotline, it is a totally predictable re-writing of every boxing (and most sports) movie ever made. Not even the fact that it is "based on a true story" can change that. It is a tribute to the writers, director and actors that this movie rises far above that restriction and turns into a captivating and entertaining move that is well worth seeing.
After a weak opening scene where I feared the entire movie was going to be trying too hard - like a made for TV movie - the movie found its pace and developed into a quirky funny little film well worth watching. I have a modest acquaintance with Russian political history and I thought the more you know about it the more likely you are to get the inside jokes and allusions.
The lead is a true 'rebel without a cause' who does not even have the courage to live his own life. Strangely he manages to take very (pseudo) courageous stands by trying to re-live the life of a Communist revolutionary battling a different world than the one Trotsky actually occupied. This is the point which could make or break this movie: does it successfully manage to create a world where this strange figure is at least believable?
I found that it snuck in just under my ability to 'suspend my disbelief' and as a result I liked this movie.
Colm Feore as Lenin/principal and Genivieve Bujold as the head of the School board (not sure of the historical Russian echo) were noteworthy.
I'm not a facebook type. Don't have an account and I don't plan on getting one. Nevertheless this movie worked for me in a manner similar to 'Up in the Air', 'Wallstreet' or 'Bonfire of the Vanities'. It's a movie about corporate greed and an individual compensating for his own lack of social skills by developing an elaborate social networking site.
I like the fact that the movie shows that the idea did not just strike in a lightening flash but instead was developed in a particular context: the university dating scene (or, in his case, the lack of dating scene). The movie also traces the evolution of the idea to what we see today.
The casting is exceptional. The characters are generally unsympathetic but occasionally a line such as 'this is moving so fast' gives a glimpse into the undoubted confusion of emotions caused by being attached to a rocketship like facebook became.
Although he wasn't the best of the cast, I think Justin Timberlake deserves special mention if only because I have rarely seen a singer who turns out to be such a good actor.
I really liked this movie...but I'm not sure why it needed to be made. I don't think it is much different or much of an improvement on the original. The original was funnier but this one may be seen as more realistic (except for the truly pathetic computer generated snakes!) or a bit truer to the novel (which I have not read).
Like many of the best westerns the movie presents a seemingly straightforward story with many layers of meaning. What is the true nature of 'justice'? How does it relate to 'vengence'? It presents evil as banal and examines the role of character (true grit) in human dealings. And, not least, 'violence' which is common both to good and evil is fully displayed (more so in this remake).
I particularly liked the use of the Iris Dement song at the end.