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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David Fincher as an Auteur #2

My second post discussing David Fincher as an auteur will focus on his depressing and negative endings which often show failure, sacrifice or suicide. It is a common thing for Fincher to involve himself with a film that is actually gritty, grim and dark such as Se7en, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and even The Game; however the endings and climax are always very important.

Fincher’s first directing role in Alien 3 shows this, it’s a cruel horrible world inside this prison where you are only waiting for your imminent death which is slow and tiring. An alien creature invades along with a lost and injured Ripley, a female isolated in this male dominated society and world which sets up a very harsh storyline. However at the end of the film there is no victory or success for either the prisoners or Ripley who we follow throughout, following a spray of guns the prisoners are shot and Ripley commits sacrificial suicide as she jumps into a pit of burning flames. As an audience we have nothing to be happy about, our main characters are all dead and with no victory showing how rubbish and cruel the situation was.

The same feeling is portrayed in the ending of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; throughout the film we follow the subplot which shows the growing relationship between our two main characters Mikael and Lisbeth. Lisbeth is someone who we feel very attached too and sympathetic towards, however at the end of the film dressed up and ready to meet Mikael she witnesses him leave with another woman leaving her distressed and upset. It is heart-breaking to watch, again there is no positive ending for the film or our character showing just how cruel this world is and society is.

Se7en and Fight Club two of Fincher’s big classics and all-time greats also follow this same outlook and perspective, mainly focusing on suicide. At the end of Se7en our main character witnesses his wife’s head decapitated in box and then gets himself arrested for shooting her murderer which is the serial killer being chased throughout the film. We can only assume that Mills is going to spend the rest of his life in a prison cell, alone and hopeless yet he knew this would be the chosen path when he pulled the trigger on John Doe therefore technically committing suicide as he kills of his future. Fight Club has the similar ending after an emotional and somewhat crazy journey our main character stands with a gun in his mouth ready to end it all, the same situation in The Game. Fincher creates this very depressing feeling of injustice, giving the message that the good guys don’t win in society. Se7en even ends with Somerset’s lines “The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.” I agree with the second part.” This sums up the films and in a way Fincher’s message.

It is fair to say that Fincher has a negative look on society and life in general especially in his first set of directing roles. It seems that if you want Fincher behind your film, you better make sure there are no happy endings and it isn’t a romantic comedy.  Negative films and depressing endings are definitely and unarguably a trademark of David Fincher, if you didn’t see my last post on his representation of women click here.

Mr – Women hating – David Fincher

As part of my A-Level Film Studies course I will be doing Auteur Theory on David Fincher. Watching all of his films in college I have decided to review them from Alien 3 (cubed) to Gone Girl if released in time, I will also comment on his trademarks. If people could give me feedback and advice that would be great, also some secrets about Fincher might help too. All of the reviews can be found on my David Fincher category so it’s easy to follow my progress – Thanks