The Good: Excellent Acting, Good Directing, Good character development, Intelligently Written
The Bad: Unsurprising to a trained eye.
The Basics: Intelligent, Quickly-paced, expertly acted, The Game has suspense and entertainment down pat!
Every now and then, two films come out too close together and the latter one suffers. Alien 3 was seen as too derivative of Terminator 2 (especially in the end). Similarly, Star Trek First Contact and Alien Resurrection had endings too close for comfort. In the case of The Game, the film suffers for genre fans due to an episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine entitled "Move Along Home." If you're not that into other media, other shows, that sort of thing and haven't seen "Move Along Home," you're fine. You're going to love The Game. It will catch you by surprise, it will make you happy to see because it is an atypical Hollywood thriller. The Game successfully jerks around the viewer. It's pretty fabulous. If you've seen "Move Along Home" or anything similar, The Game is better.
The Game follows Nick Van Orton, wealthy investment banker. I mean, so rich he makes most people look like beggars. He's in that top .5%. He has a loser brother, Conrad, who gives him a birthday gift, a game from Consumer Recreation Services. CRS gives Nick a test that begins his game. Shortly thereafter, CRS implants a clown in his house and his game is underway. He then is accosted by people dying, a woman who pleas ignorance, guns, dead bodies, drugs, pornography and a vandalized house. He's drugged and wakes up in Mexico, he is sent in a taxi into a river and other things that may or may not be fun.
The film is truly about the power of standardized testing. Honestly. CRS gives Nick a series of tests. From those tests, they determine what is lacking in Nick's life. They are able to anticipate his moves, his motivations, all from the test. It all makes sense. The right test with the right analysis team can understand a person perfectly. The Game seeks to prove that.
The magic of The Game is that everything fits. Michael Douglas is perfectly cast as Nick. His natural intensity works perfectly in the character of a stressed out investment banker. He's confused and lost and trying to make order to an emotive world. Douglas plays that perfectly. The supporting cast of Sean Penn and Deborah Unger, who plays Christine, work quite well to round out the story, adding suspense and confusion. The pace is perfectly executed with everything timed perfectly. It has a wonderful rising action, it speeds along with excellent precision and just when it seems like the film is bordering on being tired, it ends.
The quality of the writing is superb. CRS leaves clues all around and the perceptive viewer finds them. All of the elements of the game come together without any real loose ends. The film is quite tightly woven and that there is an actual denouement works wonderful!
Why watch The Game? It's suspenseful, intelligent, well acted and has characters that read as very real. The supporting cast is excellent. And, rarely, the pieces come together in a way that everything makes sense. In all, the film is fun. It makes you want to keep watching. And, even if you've seen something like it before, you've not seen this. It's worth it.
On DVD, The Game now comes with a commentary track from director David Fincher as well as featurettes on the making of the movie.
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© 2010, 2007, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.