The Game (1997)

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Director: David Fincher

Writers: John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris

Starring: Michael Douglas, Deborah Kara Unger, Sean Penn

Rating:★★★★

The Game is a film which more than any other fulfils its “mystery thriller” genre as throughout it is a guessing game, making you constantly choose between fantasy and reality leading to some thrilling consequences. David Fincher again involves himself in a very dark-viewed story which can be somewhat haunting at times. Excellent acting alongside the great story highlighted by the final scenes really makes The Game an entertaining and intriguing film to watch but one which really tests your mind.

We follow the life of Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) a very wealthy San Francisco banker, however his wealth and intelligence does not fill the gap of being an absolute loner which sees him even spending his birthday with only himself for company.  In the year of his 48th birthday (the age his father sadly committed suicide) Nicholas’ brother Conrad (Sean Penn) returns with the greeting of a card which allows entry to unusual entertainment, a game provided by Consumer Recreation Services (CRS). Conrad however is not an equal to his brother, an addict to all kinds who’s surrendered to paranoia and fear. Giving in to curiosity Nicholas enrols to CRS and plays his own Game however as a consequence his life becomes a nightmare which sees him question what is real and what is the game eventually it consumes his life.

The story is something which The Game really thrives off and more so gains a lot of interest, the ending is something which is a huge plot twist and paradigm shift within Nicholas’s world too. Alongside being very intriguing and connecting the story also invests a lot into the building of three very unique characters. Nicholas is a character which is very true; rich and intelligent but envious of those with social popularity and a life something we could see being very realistic, the change which he shows throughout is very well written. The character of Conrad is also very important not only does he get the plot moving but the action; he’s dangerous and lethal bringing a lot of pace to the film. The third character is Christine (Deborah Kara Unger) who brings pace but the development needed for Nicholas as they form a not so conventional relationship.

The acting is good all-around from the cast, Michael Douglas however is the highlight as Nicholas Van Orton and his scenes and portrayal comes across very realistic. David Fincher’s direction for me is also a significant element which makes The Game somewhat haunting and thrilling. As always associating himself with a dark story some scenes are flawless as dark dismal settings are portrayed much like in Alien3 and Se7en bringing a very doomy atmosphere to the screen. He also chooses to use similar score to create this very droning and foreboding mood which as an audience makes us alert and on-edge.

The only thing which ruins The Game is at times the balance between pace is very bad, it would have benefited more from a constant fast-pace which would add to the excitement despite taking away some intrusive feel.  Despite the ending wrapping up everything very well before this the mixture between reality and “the game” can be somewhat frustrating to watch, but once reflected upon afterwards it seems to be a clever aspect which only draws the audience into this false sense of security.

The Game is a film which is very worth-while to watch not only for a very good finale but for its entertainment and ability to test not only your mind but your sense of safety within reality throughout its running time. Alongside being entertaining it is also very thrilling as its burst of pace and action complemented by Fincher’s direction is effective also creating a sense of horror. Rounded off by a great performance by Michael Douglas The Game outweighs its minor downfalls and becomes an almost classic piece of film.

 

 

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

Genre: Adventure, Action, Drama, Comedy

Director: Ben Stiller

Writers: Steve Conrad, James Thurber

Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Jon Daly

Rating: ★★★★

Ben Stiller directing and starring in the film of his career. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has been compared to some big name films and has been frequently labelled “The New Forrest Gump”, but for me it has enough loveable aspects to stand alone and be regarded as having its own story and being its own style of film. Surprisingly funny and powerful, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has heart and a great storyline with an even better message being conveyed.  Inspiring visuals and cinematography then add the star quality Stiller would have hoped for creating an entertaining watch.

Ben Stiller is Walter Mitty, a dreamer so busy dreaming he doesn’t get to live, always finding himself “zoned-out” in the background of everything that he does. A long-time server and loyal employee of Life Magazine Mitty works as a negative film developer but his position is soon under threat due to the magazine turning to the world wide web,  revealing there will only be one more issue of the global magazine printed before the online version is launched. When photojournalist Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) sends Walter “the best work of his life” for the final issue, the intended final front page, shot negative 25 goes missing. Stepping out of his daydreams Walter Mitty goes on the most courageous adventure of his life in attempt to track down the mysterious photographer and the missing photograph that takes him half way across the world.

The adapted classic tale also focuses on the growing relationship between Walter Mitty and his co-worker Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig) that sets up a rather heart-felt romance and relationship. The film in a whole is very pleasant and heart-warming whilst at the same time surprisingly funny from script to scenes. In the opening of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty the focus is very much on the constant drifts from reality by Mitty, where he rescues small dogs from fires and makes harsh compassions between his boss and the beloved Dumbledore. The rest of the film though, focuses on the idea of reality both however are very action packed and entertaining.

The art of enjoying this film is to stretch your imagination; at times the humour is silly and so is the story but despite this it is hilarious and entertaining if you let it be. The gags are great and the majority are due to the unfortunate events in Walter’s life, the comedy almost hints at Stiller’s previous work, especially Zoolander.  The action is the highlight however as the missing shot takes Walter half way round the world, to the jaws of a shark and to the face of an erupting volcano, providing more than enough escapism.

The thing I loved most about the story of Walter Mitty is the element of truth and realism it holds; especially speaking about myself I can firmly say we can often find ourselves drifting from reality into daydreams and wild imaginative thoughts all with the same hope of one day experiencing them. Ben Stiller and Steve Conrad have really worked well together and have successfully achieved a great adaption from James Thurber’s classic, creating a film we can all relate to.

I can see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty achieving many awards and much recognition; technically I believe the film flourished in terms of visuals and cinematography. The vast amounts of long shots and wide shots  showing off scenery views from mountains to long roads was awe inspiring and a real treat for the eyes. The score was also a real gem, especially the clever inclusion of the classic Space Oddity by David Bowie.

The Secret Life of Walter isn’t perfect, at times the narrative has flaws and the script comes across too cheesy making it look like it’s trying just too hard for laughs and gags. However you leave the cinema feeling inspired and there’s a real special element about this film that is quite unique. The ending is a real heart-warmer and glorifies a fantastic piece of writing, if you’re thinking of seeing The Secret Life of Walter Mitty than I can only ask you take it for what it is and then you will really realise how great this film is.

Into The Wild (2007)

Genre: Adventure, Biography, Drama

Director: Sean Penn
Writers: Sean Penn (screenplay), Jon Krakauer (book)
Staring: Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart
Rating: ★★★★½
Into The Wild is a film that’s based on a true story and an adaptation of a book, Sean Penn captures every bit of emotion possible creating an inspirational, beautiful, sad and influential film that you will always remember. Words won’t do justice to just how good a storyline this film has, the fact it’s based on a true story just adds to the emotion and wonder. It has a fantastic crew that shows when looking at the film from the technical point of view, it also features a cameo of all star actors and actresses from Vince Vaughn to Kristen Stewart.

Emile Hirsch plays the character of Chris McCandless a young man who has it all, youth, wealth, intelligence but it isn’t what he wants, he just wants to live to be out there. After graduating from Emory University with straight A’s he abandons his old life, his possessions, his car, he gives his complete $24,000 savings to charity and decides to hitchhike his way to Alaska to live in the wild as Alexander The Supertramp. He rebels against his demanding snobby parents (Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt) and leaves his bewildered sister (Jena Malone). On the way of his great adventure he meets some extraordinary and different characters that shape his new life.

The film skips between Chris in Alaska at the end of his adventure to how he got there and the lessons he learnt and the people he met, finally they meet and the film follows the present day. The characters he meets all vary giving not only Chris advice but you feel the audience life lessons. He meets the characters middle aged “hippy” couple Rainey and Jan (Brain H. Dierker, Catherine Keener) to the likes of an old man Ron (Hal Holbrook) not only is it inspirational and heart warming but the relationships and bonds formed are truly heart warming.

Sean Penn has adapted the book very well, staying close to the original source. He was helped along the way in creating this wonderful film by an excellent crew, credit should be given for a inspirational mood setting soundtrack by the sound department. The acting was outstanding, Emile Hirsch adapted very well not only mentally but physically to play the character of Chris McCandless, for me it’s one of my favourite performances in the last decade. All in all Into The Wild is a must watch film, not only is it a inspirational story but a serious one about a boy who was lost due to his desire to live. It deserves its status as the 165th best film of all time and its many wins and nominations, don’t miss out.