Friday, May 17, 2013

Movie Review - The Game (1997)

What is the greatest fear to an old wealthy man?  Nicholas van Orton (Michael Douglas) may have more wealth than the common person can dream of, but his life is based around safe routine and isolation.  His father committed suicide at the age of 48, and memories of Dad are re-emerging in Nicholas's mind as his 48th birthday nears.  Conrad (Sean Penn), Nicholas's brother, presents him with an unconventional gift.  It is only described as a real life game that will change his life.

This picture is structurally built like a typical thriller.  It reveals and misleads at the same time.  The innovative aspect is that on screen there is a man losing control of his life as the audience loses ground on what happens next.  The film hints that there is always something behind or beyond the frame, as Nicholas uncovers the truth behind what this game is all about.  Simultaneously, The Game displays its own self awareness as a movie in scenes where we can vicariously look behind the set, peek at the actors, and catch them out of character.  The movie is mirroring the audience's emotions and thoughts with the events on screen.

The Game concludes with some plausibility issues.  Despite some of the logistics that have been bent or even thrown out the window, the thematic undertones are more interesting.  What is a man with all the money he will ever need, yet is too cautious to truly live?  He goes to work at the big bank alone, exercises in the mahogany finished sports club alone, and watches the news alone with his expensive brandy.  He appears comfortably bored in his natural habitat.  Maybe all the control and money he contributed to his isolation was actually preventing true wealth: meaningful relationships.

Interesting trivia:  in The Game, director Spike Jonze does a cameo as an EMT.  In Being John Malkovich,  David Fincher (the director of The Game) and Sean Penn do a cameo for Spike Jonze's film.

The Game is currently available for stream on Netflix.

Rated R for language, and some violence and sexuality


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