The Game (1997)

by Paul on September 28, 2012

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In 1997, director David Fincher released his psychological thriller The Game. In the subsequent years many thrillers ofThe Game this kind have followed, but The Game still stands out as a landmark film in a genre that was in desperate need of resurgence.

Highly successful investment banker Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is turning 48 years old. Ever since his father committed suicide when he was 48, Nick has been afraid to reach this point in his life. He sees similarities in his lifestyle and that of his fathers. Because of his past and the choices he has made, he has grown increasingly greedy and unkind. He has a younger brother that he hasn’t seen in three years and an estranged ex-wife who was pushed away by his inability to love anyone or anything.

For his birthday Nick’s brother Conrad (Sean Penn) gives him a gift certificate to Consumer Recreation Services (CRS). The GameWhen Nick asks what CRS is, Conrad tells him that it’s a “game” that makes his life fun. Nick eventually goes to CRS, where he undergoes a series of tests that take up an entire day. Shortly thereafter, Nick’s “game” begins, although he quickly wishes it hadn’t. His life becomes turned upside down as CRS seems to have take all of his comfort and safety away from him. The only guidance Nick receives is from a waitress, Christine (Deborah Unger), who mysteriously is thrown into his game. Nick soon discovers from Conrad that the game is a fake and CRS is just trying to take Nick’s fortune away. Now Nick must rely on his own wit and ability to find a way out of the game before his life is destroyed completely.

The Game is the type of movie that makes you feel uncomfortable because we all fear the loss of control in our own lives. The Game Nick is a modern day Scrooge, whose life has become mundane and pointless, and his game allows him to reflect on his own life and see what a pretentious jerk he has become. Michael Douglas was the perfect actor to undertake this role. His presence on the screen is amazing. He is able to scream when he’s angry and yet appear so pitiful when he is in need. I don’t know that there are many other actors who could have pulled this role off with the same strength and perfection.

One of the greatest things about The Game is the camera movement. As you watch this film it feels as if the camera is constantly moving which gives the audience an unsettling feeling. Rather than outside observers, we become part of the movie and therefore part of the danger.

The GameWhen The Game was released in 1997, it wasn’t an overly successful movie. During it’s opening, it received mostly positive reviews and earned a respectable amount at the box office. As time went on, The Game received good word of mouth and became one of those movies that everyone seems to enjoy. Now fifteen years later, The Game is considered to be one of the films that reintroduced the “suspense thriller” to a new generation of moviegoers. The psychological thriller had lost some of its popularity over the years, but thanks to The Game (as well as a few other thrillers of the time) this genre was about to make an enormous comeback.

David Fincher was still a relatively new movie director when he undertook The Game. His first film, Alien 3 (1993),The Game although often looked down upon today, brought an even darker side to a film series that was already unnerving. In 1995, Fincher became instantly famous with his immensely popular, Se7en.  It was the success of this dark thriller that allowed Fincher to make The Game. Many thought it wouldn’t achieve the same notoriety as other suspense movies, due to the complex and involved plot, but Fincher proved it could be done. After The Game, Fincher continued to make this same type of film with Fight Club (1999), Panic Room (2002), Zodiac (2007) and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011).  All of Finchers’ movies are dark, unnerving and brilliant. The two others films he has directed (The Curious Case Of Benjamin Buttons in 2008 and The Social Network in 2010) are not “thrillers”, and oddly enough they were both extremely well received, as The Gamewell as them both being nominated for Best Picture. David Fincher has truly become one of the elite filmmakers today and has shown that with his ingenuity and skill he has the ability to one day be considered one of the all time greats.

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