Network is (in my opinion) one of the most important films ever made and is essential as both an angry and cynical satire (one of the greatest) and as an eye-opening experience for our modern age. I would even venture to say that this film is even more pertinent now than when it first entered theaters 28 years ago. A huge (actually staggering) amount of events have happened since then, including the rise of the computer (which is already an average, commonplace thing now) and globalism. Corporations (the object of scorn in this film) are more powerful than ever. It makes the chilling statements in this movie even more confrontational and prophetic.
Network displays terrific ensemble acting by all of the characters involved: from "leading" figure William Holden, the old-fashioned romantic left rudderless in the wake of a new ultra-consumerist culture to his icy and mechanical love interest Faye Dunaway who is the "ugly" spirit of the Network itself to his wife Beatrice Straight, the lonely, bitter, and heartbroken woman (she won an Oscar for being in merely one scene, that's how real it was!) to Robert Duvall's exaggerated performance as a cruel and money-obsessed entrepeneur to Ned Beatty's strange, almost Shakespearean portrayal of the head executive as a sort of Antichrist for Capitalism to the small but gritty and ferocious roles of the quasi-Communist radicals who also end up tangled in the web of the Network and scrambling for their own "share".
Then we come to Peter Finch. Dunaway and Straight also won Oscars, but it was Finch's dazzling, enraged, and clownish acting feat as "mad prophet" Howard Beale that truly steals the show. His vitriolic diatribes which reveal his deepest, darkest inner secrets as well as his outer visions about society and the world end up bringing chills to the spine and are more adrenaline-pumping than any action-adventure extravaganza. He was an anomaly in the film and in the Hollywood spotlight, being the first actor awarded a posthumous Oscar.
Of course, the heart and soul of this film belong to kinetic director Sidney Lumet, who captures the zeitgeist, city, and intricate structure of modern times so well, and riddling writer Paddy Chayefsky who does some intense philosophical probing into many puzzling and disturbing issues that still ring true today.
In the end, Network is more than just another Oscar winner (being another tragic example of Hollywood's bias and/or reluctance to choose revolutionary films as Best Picture, other examples being Citizen Kane, Easy Rider, Apocalypse Now, etc.), it is also a film that makes you examine your own position in our modern society and what that society is doing (more importantly, the persons in power in that society). Network has no heroes, no happy ending, and no resolutions. It offers hard questions but few answers. I highly recommend this startling, over-the-top, and controversial film. It is provocatively honest.
There isn't a film more ripe for the "Special Edition" treatment than the perfect "NETWORK". With Lumet, Dunaway and Duvall all still active, their potential contribution could make this a real treasure.
For godssake, "SPACE JAM" (!) even got this treatment, and I'm talkin' "NETWORK" here . . .
It captures the essence of TV sensationalism gone mad. The movie was before its time, because many of the trends it suggested are present in today's ridiculous shows like "Fear Factor" and many of the other absurd reality shows...and of course, the worst of the worst is Jerry Springer...a show that capitalizes on people's tragic lives and unhappiness. Anything for ratings, right??
"Network" has a lot to say and more people need to experience what the movie is really trying to get across.