The Game (15)

Directed by David Fincher
Starring Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, Deborah Ungar

David Fincher is a relative novice still in Hollywood. His name was mud after the mess that was Alien3, but someone saw a bit of style in that film as his next film, several years later was the violent thriller Se7en. If you have seen these two film, you will have a fair idea of what to expect from The Game. Fincher's latest film is another bleak film with unsympathetic characters, but with a great sense of unease and tension. Also it is visually memorable, like his previous work.
Michael Douglas is Nicholas Van Orton, a man barely alive inside. His life is depressingly empty. He is a hard nosed business man whose life is joyless and rigid. His rootless younger brother Conrad(Penn) gives him a strange birthday gift; an introduction to CRS, a shadowy organisation that offer a mysterious form of entertainment. The game is a sort of role playing exercise that leads the player on the trip of a life time. Sort of. Before we know it, old Nick is getting involved with a beautiful waitress(Ungar) and being chased and shot at. We are as confused as Nick as the plot, and the game, twists and turns most unexpectedly.
The idea is a good one, and for the most part, this film is a genuine thriller in that we have no idea what will happen. Fincher's reputation as a director is such that the audience is constantly expecting the unexpected! However, this is a double edged sword, in that the events of The Game are frankly a bit of a disappointment. After Se7en, we expect more in the way of thrills from Fincher. The plot twists ARE pretty good, but the finale is disappointing, and the reactions of the main protagonists don't quite ring true. The film is also a bit unevenly paced. The film builds then slows, then builds then slows and the big finale is not all that big. At 128 minutes it is a bit elongated.
Michael Douglas is perfect for once, in that he is a natural at playing unsympathetic, dislikable bastards! I am not a big fan of his, but he was just right. However, none of the characters was in any way likable. Sean Penn, not one of the most charming actors around, plays the squealing pest brother, and Deborah Unger is beautiful but completely lacking in charisma. She has been around for a while but has made little impression in tinseltown, and seeing her here it is not hard to understand why. All three main actors are completely fine in this film, but do not attract our sympathy. Douglas is obviusly the star, and his character is by far the best realized. Fincher's use of home movie type shots at the start and through out the film to portray his early life and his father's suicide create an effective image. Later, Nick is drugged and left for dead in Mexico, and he reawakens inside a tomb! This image seems to be an attempt to show his return to life as he rises out of the coffin to return to the US, battered and bruised, but alive.
An intriguing and intelligent film, attractively photographed and competantly played, but I was just a touch disappointed that more didn't happen and in the ending. 7/10.

October 1997

Back to Movies page
Back to main page