The Game (1997)

the game poster 1997 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Solid looking and cast

Cannot suspend disbelief that long for the sake of the story

Movie Info

Movie Name:   The Game

Studio:   Propaganda Films

Genre(s):   Drama/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):   September 12, 1997

MPAA Rating:   R

the game michael douglas clown doll

Want to play a game?

Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is an angry, rich man approaching fifty but already dead inside.  When his estranged younger brother Conrad (Sean Penn) shows up and offers him the opportunity to join “The Game” at CRS, Nicholas reluctantly takes up his offer.  Nicholas soon finds himself caught up in a something bigger than he ever expected.  As his world comes crashing down he finds himself teamed with a waitress named Christine (Deborah Kara Unger) and on the run.  The game is getting dangerous, but Nicholas is determined to win!

Directed by David Fincher, The Game is a psychological mystery thriller.  The film was released to mixed to positive reviews and gained a cult following as Fincher rose in popularity.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #627).

The Game is one of my London movies.  I saw it while overseas and going to see a real “American” film was always a nice way to go home for a couple hours.  While I like the stylish nature of The Game, it is the type of movie that requires you to give yourself completely to the story without questions…and I can’t really do that.

the game ending gun deborah kara unger michael douglas

He pulls the trigger…and game over.

The Game reminds me a lot of Alfred Hitchcock’s VertigoVertigo (a beautiful film) has no sense of realism.  The effort put into the plot to set up a fake murder totally outweighs realism and doesn’t factor in chance.  The Game is also like that.  The plot relies on the viewer accepting that the people can assume what Nicholas will do and how he’ll do it.  What if he goes left instead of right?  What if he just shoots himself in the head the second day?  What if he runs over a pedestrian not involved with the game?  What if he jumps off the wrong side of the building (or landed on his head)?  If it was all an illusion, it would be one thing, but it is presented as reality…and I can’t suspend disbelief that long.

The cast is strong.  Michael Douglas takes up his typical Michael Douglas role as a jerky executive (he mastered that role).  Sean Penn always morphs for his role, but the role is rather small (Jodie Foster was originally tapped but fell through with plot problems).  Deborah Kara Unger is nice as a rather basic potentially femme fatale character.

the game ending jump michael douglas

Um, guys…yeah…he’s about 10 feet off his mark…he’s gonna die

The visuals for the movie are strong.  Fincher has always really excelled in the visual arena and The Game is his foray into action.  The action sequences are tight, concise and strong…and really feel dangerous.  That also helps poke problems at the story.  It is meant to feel real so Fincher made it real and if it was real, you can’t believe the story.

The Game is frustrating to me because I like stories in movies that are believable within the context of the world created.  It was meant to be a riff on A Christmas Carol with Douglas changing his ways, but A Christmas Carol was presented as a fantasy within the real world.  The world of The Game is believed to be the “real world” and events in The Game could not happen in the real world without consequences or variations because human nature cannot be predicted to the level it needs to be for the story to work.  It is not about being too logical…it is about realism.  While the game is a nice fantasy, it is pure science fiction…but it refuses to accept that.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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