“Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can.” - Danny Kaye
We watched an interesting film at the weekend, one that has been around for quite a while but which we missed when it was first screened. It was the 1997 David Fincher film “The Game”
. This is a psychological thriller of some punch (even if the plot is somewhat contrived and improbable), which is nevertheless quite subtle in the way that it projects its message and its moral. One may watch it, enjoy it and take it in superficially, but I believe it is on reflection that one can really assess it and process it in such a way so that it becomes personally relevant.
David Fincher is of course famous for “Fight Club”
but is also responsible for “Panic Room”
and “Alien 3”
. Therefore, he is well-seasoned in directing a satisfying thriller. He does very well with “The Game”, keeping the viewers on their toes and ensuring they experience one emotional roller coaster ride after the other. The plot’s twists and turns help of course, with scriptwriters John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris having done a good job in providing some good material. Once one gets over the improbability of some of the scenes, one can concentrate on the essence and enjoy the movie.
Michael Douglas is not one of my favourite actors, although he has played in some excellent films and he generally does well with his roles. In this film he is excellent and gives an acting recital, especially as his role is very demanding and he is needed in almost every scene. Sean Penn does well in supporting Douglas, and Deborah Kara Unger is also very good. The rest of the cast is also very good and overall, production standards are very high. All of these features maintain viewer interest and engagement in what is arguably a long film (130 minutes or so).
Now for the plot: Douglas play Nicholas Van Orton, a billionaire financier, who has everything that money can buy. He is the typical tough, ruthless businessman who has sacrificed everything in order to be successful. He has a younger brother, Conrad (Penn), who is the opposite. Conrad is pleasure-seeking, wayward, free-spirited and “unsuccessful” by Nicholas’ standards. For Nicholas’ birthday Conrad gives him an unusual present (what else could you get someone who has everything?), a gift certificate from a company called the Consumer Recreation Services (CRS). Nicholas is skeptical as Conrad is a problematic sibling that has had to cope with addictions, “interesting” life experiences and all sorts of scrapes. However, both Nicholas and Conrad love each other and have over the years supported each other in coping with their father’s suicide (he fell to his death from the roof of their mansion).
CRS is in the business of providing to clients a real life entertainment experience where a game is played within the participants’ lives and is tailored to their own individual needs, lifestyle, deficiencies and strengths. Nicholas takes up the challenge of participating in the game and after a series of physical and psychological tests, he becomes embroiled in a dangerous game that exposes his repressed emotions, his fears and anxieties, disrupts his life and forces him to re-examine it in order to find out what makes himself tick. As mentioned previously it is the constant twists in the plot that keep one guessing and even to the last scene, one is left wondering if it is true or not.
Overall, we enjoyed this film greatly and then got into an animated discussion about it, which was the best part about it. Discussing a film with someone you have seen it is great fun and analysing it, disassembling it, evaluating it, extracting the essence is a great way of prolonging its enjoyment – or in some cases value-adding on a mediocre film. I’d recommend this particular film highly if you haven’t seen it and you love psychological thrillers!