Let me just start off by saying that this write-up has been a long time coming. Ever since the post I wrote last year, I have been looking for the chance to evaluate this film again. The Game is one of my very favorite “twist-endings” of all time and a damn fine picture all around. Acting, direction, patented “Fincher” visuals, this movie has it all. So why don’t more people know about it?
It’s true if you say “David Fincher” to most film fans, you’ll hear them immediately respond with “Se7en” or Fight Club“…or maybe The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (which I just LOVE). Yet, only a certain number of people will say “The Game” and that saddens me how rampantly it is overlooked.
If you haven’t seen this movie, stop reading and go buy it right now…for those of you know The Game…let’s continue playing:)
The pure beauty of the film is that the story is clouded in ambiguous misdirection when actually, it’s all right in front of you. I’ve seen this movie at least a dozen times and even though I know the ending very well, the film’s magnificence comes not from the “ah-ha” finale, but the varied and complex layering throughout the film. Man I would love to see the “master plan” of just how the hell they pulled it all off. The whole thing had to be orchestrated and executed with military type precision.
One reason I think this movie didn’t get anywhere close to the fanfare of Fincher’s other films is that when it was made, Michael Douglas was not the “in demand” actor he was in the 80’s. The Game wasn’t nearly as high-profile as Seven and Fight Club so this sensational film got lost amidst the popularity of the double dose of Brad Pitt, I think anyway. All I can tell you is that this film impresses me more and more with each viewing.
Douglas, in a really amazing role, makes one hell of an arc over the course of the film from “high and mighty” to “humble”. He really sold the detached and emotionally void Nichols Van Horton who secretly still laments the loss of his father. While I’m not a huge Sean Penn fan I found myself liking him more and more throughout the film. The two played off each other fairly well in their respective successful/deadbeat brother parts. Also, am I the only one thinking that Deborah Kara Unger is a greatly underused actress in Hollywood? There’s just something about her delivery that makes me want to see her in a lot more films.
As much as I love the film, I find a huge probability for error on roof top scene and the end of the movie. That could have gone horribly wrong had he jumped off the wrong side of the building (and I’m not sure a CRS employee could have stopped him in time). On the purely a psychological level, think about what it would have been like to be Nicholas at that point in the movie. You’re overwhelmed with so much guilt that you feel the need to commit suicide?? With a compromised emotional status, there’s just no telling what you would do or are capable of. So you throw yourself off a roof and find out it was all a game? “Surprise! Congratulations, you now have a new outlook on life”. If were me, I really would have shot somebody for putting me through all that.
But like any movie you still have to suspend some disbelief. What I really enjoy on repeat viewing is looking at every character on screen and trying to think “Are they, or aren’t they in on it?” It’s tough because you’ll never truly know and the brilliance of a film like this is that even after the reveal and the finale, it still keeps you guessing. It’ll also cause you to have conversations like this: “Everyone was in on it ? Like the whole city everyone?? No way…well that would account for the huge bill at the end. Damn even the “pen guy” was in on it?? Wow!!“. Yup, Fincher and writers (John D. Brancato & Michael Ferris are very nearly magicians in that respect for pulling this all off.
Finally, much like Nicholas’ conversation with the man at the country club bar, I too wish I could go back and do it all over again.
G-S-T Ruling: 5/5
G-S-T Seal of Approval: GRANTED – This overlooked film is, what I consider to be, a Great Cinematic Treasure.