Review for The Game
Nicholas van Orton is a man who has everything. An investment banker, he has the money, he has the house, he has all the things he needs and with his approaching birthday his brother enrols him on a very special game run by a company called CRS. This game will be unlike any other and you will never know what it is, when it is starting or who is involved. This leads to a paranoia or who to trust and what to do with things spiralling out of control as Nicholas tries to get his life back to normal.
When people talk about ‘The Genius of David Fincher’, they are usually referring to Seven or Fight Club or his later work on things like The Social Network. However, oftentimes the film The Game will brought up as almost a ‘Lost Classic’ and after watching this time I am really not sure why. Now, I will openly say that the film looks amazing from every aspect of ‘creation’ and if I was just looking at that then this film would be a slam dunk 10/10.
However, this film feels like two hours of build to probably one of the most obvious twists that has ever been put on film. The kind of twist that even M. Night Shyamalan would be ashamed of. I want to say that the twists and turns, double/triple crosses are great to watch play out, but it really isn’t. At times I was unsure what I was supposed to make of the film and unlike other ‘twist-reliant’ films there really is no reason to go back and watch again to see if there are any other clues. This is probably the big let-down of the film, by the end I felt no satisfaction with the reveal and no pleasure at the fact I guessed before the halfway mark.
Michael Douglas as Nicholas is great in that pseudo-Gordon Gecko role that he has been doing for most of his career and it is a very good performance. Sean Penn as his sleazy brother is great as always and it is odd to see him in a supporting role with his being such a leading man over the last decade. The rest of the cast are fine, with James Redhorn a standout as the man supposedly in charge of Nicholas’ assessment at CRS. Deborah Kara Unger is a little plain as the ‘mysterious’ Christine and I really expected her character to have more to her, but not sure if that is the fault of the acting or the script.
As I said, the film looks amazing and could easily be set in the same sleazy, down-beat world that Seven and Fight Club took place in. Howard Shore’s score was fantastic and the whole set up of shots and the way the film was presented was a visual treat. Unfortunately, the length of the film, hurt it and though it could be argued the slow build is the best way to deal with this kind of film, if I am honest it just didn’t work for me. I know many critics have praised the film including the likes of Roger Ebert, but for me this film just didn’t work.
The two disk set comes with a multitude of extra features and so if you are a fan of the film then you will love what is on offer here. Unfortunately, I can’t comment on the features that were on the DVD but they include a Commentary, a number of featurettes with optional Commentary, Trailers an Alternate Ending and Production Design and Storyboard Galleries. The only thing from this that I am disappointed to have not seen was the Alternate Ending which actually makes more sense than the real one, but I guess doesn’t have the same gut punch.
For the Blu-ray included are some new features. A commentary by critic Nick Pinkerton which goes a long way to explain why this film is so loved. I can understand this and despite my general ambivalence to the film, listening to him made me appreciate some of the more subtle aspects of the film. Fool's Week: Developing The Game is a new interview with one of the writers, John Brancato. This was interesting and the genesis of the film and how it was developed was nice to hear.
There is an archive interview with Michael Douglas which is just him answering a few questions about why he joined the film and what it was like working on it which is fine. The visual essay Men On The Chessboard: The Hidden Pleasures of The Game by critic Neil Young is a must for fans of the film and really goes far to explain some of the things you may have missed.
There is also an isolated music/effects score which is good for those who enjoyed the aural feeling of the film and also an alternatively-framed 4:3 version with new introduction discussing Fincher’s use of the Super 35 shooting format. I do like when they include different versions of films to show how the film could be presented, this didn’t really excite me as much as it obviously did for Fincher, but still good for fans of the film.
The Game is often referred to as a ‘neglected masterpiece’ like Michael Mann’s Manhunter, but I would say that this film definitely has its moments, but just falls somewhat in comparison to the rest of Fincher’s work. This is definitely not his worst film (Alien 3 has that honour wrapped up), but certainly not his best. The problem is that it is sandwiched between his two best works (Seven and Fight Club) and so it feels like a step back from each of them.
If you like paranoid mysteries and don’t mind a twist that hits you in the neck like whiplash, then you may like this film, but it may be a game you only want to play once.