HTX0811 posted a MOVIE REVIEW item: about 1 month ago

The Game


Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris
Cast: Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, Deborah Kara Unger, James Rebhorn, Peter Donat, Carroll Baker, Anna Katerina, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Charles Martinet, Scott Hunter McGuire, Florentine Mocanu, Elizabeth Dennehy, Caroline Barclay, Daniel Schorr, John Aprea
Studio: Columbia/Tristar
Genre: Thriller
Official Site:
Plot: A businessman gets caught up in a mysterious game that affects his life for the worse.


When I was a kid, The Game was a movie that I watched constantly. Despite the fact that the movie does its hardest to earn that R rating in addition to its really dark tone, I was so taken by it that I thought that this was something worth taking my VHS copy to my elementary school for the rest of my classmates to watch. When I showed the VHS copy to my teacher, she was so worried that she put me in a room with a couple of other teachers, who told me that this was something that I wasn’t allowed to bring. I didn’t get it. It’s not that bad of a movie and it’s not that violent or sexual enough to offend anybody. Watching it in 2017, this was quite a bold thing to do having revisited this through adult eyes. The Game may not be the kind of movie that will offend or alienate someone on its plot alone but there’s something so creepy and dark that it’s easy to see why it can turn people off. One thing that I think really helped get me into this as a kid was one of my favorite actors at the time, Michael Douglas, in the role of Nicholas Van Orton, an uptight guy who gets pulled into a game organized by a mysterious corporation named CRS as a birthday present from his younger brother played by Sean Penn, who has a nice little role here. If anyone else played this role, it would come off more wholesome or likeable but there’s something interesting about how he makes no attempts to make the audience like him. Back then, Michael Douglas was the quintessential successful white guy to me and he carries himself as a very cool guy even though he can be hard to relate to or sympathize with. The really tricky part is that he also has to be our protagonist and yet I’m still interested into what’s going on with him. The good thing is that he doesn’t do too much to make too much of a monster. He’s just an uptight successful businessman who keeps too much to himself but even then, it’s not like he deserves any of this. You just start to get forced into feeling sympathy because the game beats this man down so bad that you can’t help but start to feel something for him. It doesn’t play manipulating music to get you to know how bad the situation ala any Miller-Boyett Production of this same time period. You just feel bad because as a human witnessing what Nicholas has to go through, you have to get to a point where it’s hard not to care for what’s going on.

Even the very cold tone though works for me to connect with it and it’s clear that this is David Fincher’s vision from the start and I like the way the movie flows as a result of it. This is a movie that looks gorgeous and too perfect from a visual standpoint with great cinematography from Jeff Cronenweth, which is a proper fit considering the main character. But it could be that David Fincher has a specific vision that he’s committed to seeing through the end and it works out well for him here. The story can be really out there and is easy to lose you if you take it too seriously. Just go with it and let it take you over. I actually watched this with my mom and it seemed to lose her after a while and I can’t blame her. It’s weird that this particular movie made such an impression on me but it did. I just like the way it flows and how off the rails it goes while also trying to maintain this very reserved tone throughout that soothes me for some reason. Even the biggest broadest scenes have this waft of classiness to it. Douglas consistently has his life get destroyed scene by scene does somehow come off as more entertaining than it probably should but he makes it weirdly relatable as he doesn’t overdo it. He plays it like how a regular everyday guy would play it. Sometimes it’s admirable how he’s humbled by what’s occurred to him and how he finds a way to overcome it. To be positively cynical, thank god we didn’t have a scene where he talks about how should’ve taken his more seriously and appreciated it more. It’s just about the game and the fact that we knows as little as he does makes we the audience just as involved. It’s reminiscent of Hitchcock in the best way possible but it has its own weird dark thing to it so that it can differentiate itself from those movies. The best thing about Hitchcock movies and really thrillers in general for me is how involved you get into the stories even if there are times the people in them are always coming from a pretty privileged background but he always did a great job getting me to care for those and leaving that out of the equation by getting them out of their comfort zone and that’s probably what makes this movie works so well.

Deborah Kara Unger is effective as Christine, the woman who’s forced into this situation and they work well together. She’s not totally reliable as we realize that anyone he comes in contact with could be working against him and it comes off so ambiguous. Sometimes, you trust her and other times, you start to wonder that she has to be up to something. I liked that she’s just a person who’s just pulled into this and isn’t having it. She acts the way any regular person would act in this situation. She and Douglas work pretty well and for the most part, I appreciate that they don’t try to force them to be a couple. It’s more about investigating the game and how the whole thing comes together. It feels like an old school mystery that way and I love that about it. I never knew much about James Rebhorn as Jim, the boss of the company behind the game until I saw this and Independence Day as a kid and I think he makes a big impression even in such a small amount of time. He was probably one of my first “that guy” actors for me and he always stood out for some reason. I never realized until much later what character actors could do and it seems he is one of them but he shows how the best ones can tell a great story in such a small amount of screentime. Like he could be the bad guy but he could also not. Either way, he’s a compelling person to watch.

As a whole, there’s a compelling story here that I’m willing to see play out. Despite knowing the outcome, there’s something that makes me want to see how all the pieces fit in repeat viewings. It’s asking a lot of a viewers to accept the directions it goes in especially when the ending comes. But it takes chances and I love that. Also, it has a strong performance in Michael Douglas as I’m always wondering what will happen to him and what he’ll do next. It always brings a feeling of suspense and tension enhanced by the cold tone. Usually, this can be a turn off for me but it’s the way all the elements come together that really make this for me.


Other reviews of this film: cerealkiller182 (7/10) , bringtherain (9/10) > Display all