Are You With Us?: The Game
By Ryan Mazie
September 12, 2011
It is September, which can only mean one thing: Hollywood is ready to make movies that cause the brain, not the heart, to race. The Transformers are put back into their toy box until May and the studios gamble on projects that will earn them Oscars, not licensing deals with Hasbro. What I love most about September is that this is the time when movies are released that don’t easily fit into the prestige or blockbuster categories. September is full of R-rated action flicks that have an edge. One film that mixes action with intelligence would be David Fincher’s The Game. Not only does The Game play with your adrenaline, but with your thinking process as well, in such a fine balance that only a few directors like Fincher can achieve.
When coming across The Game, I was surprised to have never heard of it before. Starring A-listers Michael Douglas and Sean Penn, directed by David Fincher, and heavy on action, The Game seemingly slipped through the cracks. After watching the twisty film, it is easy to see why.
Set in scenic San Francisco, the film stars Michael Douglas as a rich banker, Nicholas Van Orton, whose success came at the price of his family. Nearing his 48th birthday (the same age his father committed suicide), Nicholas has a feeling of dread – and with Fincher’s gloomy shades of gray and cold interiors, the audience knows something is up, too.
The anxiety comes in the form of his rebellious and reckless younger brother Conrad (Sean Penn). Giving Nicholas a mysterious gift card for a “game,” Conrad promises that the game led by the acronym company CRS will change his life (and with Douglas’ seriously dull performance up to this point, any change has to be a good thing). Brushing off the card, Nicholas slowly realizes that the game is already in motion and invading his everyday life. Starting as a mere annoyance, the game uncontrollably escalates into a penetration of Nicholas’ private and professional circles, with definitely immoral and potentially criminal outcomes.
Just as the game goes out of control, I feel like David Fincher and the screenwriters lose control of the movie as well. With a great set-up, the film seems to have no end point. Instead we get a succession of increasingly ridiculous action set pieces that build upon each other. In the end, the momentum comes toppling over into a polarizing conclusion.
The ending is absolutely ridiculous, but played with a straight face; it is just crazy enough to work.
I enjoyed The Game, but that is because I have a relatively high suspension of disbelief. Typical yet surprising, silly yet serious, The Game has a serious case of bipolarity, and if you are willing to let John Brancato and Michael Ferris’ screenplay jerk you around, then you will have a rollercoaster ride of a time. If you dislike feeling misled, then there is a good chance you will turn off the movie about an hour in. No information is handily given to you, and you know nothing more than Douglas’ character who is like a chicken running around with his head cut off.