Monday, November 14, 2016
Directed by David Fincher and written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris (w/ additional work by Andrew Kevin Walker and Larry Gross), The Game is the story of a wealthy investment banker who is invited to play a game that blurs reality and fiction as it becomes dangerous and thrilling. The film is about a man being forced to confront his own fears as well as his own life through a deadly game. Starring Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, James Rebhorn, Deborah Kara Unger, Carroll Baker, and Armin Mueller-Stahl. The Game is an exhilarating and sprawling film from David Fincher.
The film follows the life of a wealthy but cold investment banker who is given a mysterious birthday present from his estranged younger brother which is an invitation to play a game where reality and fiction blur. It’s a film where a man is forced to confront aspects of his own life as well as memories about his father’s death where he has no idea if the game he is playing is real or just some sick joke. The film’s screenplay by John Brancato and Michael Ferris doesn’t just establish the life of its protagonist Nicholas Van Horton (Michael Douglas) who is wealthy but very lonely as he lives in a mansion with a longtime family maid as he is more content with making money and being powerful. When he is invited to lunch by his younger brother Conrad (Sean Penn) who would give him this mysterious invitation. Nicholas doesn’t think about what his brother gave him until he takes a chance where he’s interviewed and examined and then the game starts in a mysterious way.
In the course of the film, Nicholas would wonder what is going on as aspects of his life begin to fall apart from a TV reporter that he watches who suddenly talks to him to other odd things. Along the way, he meets a waitress named Christine (Deborah Kara Unger) who has no idea what is going on as she becomes part of the game for some strange reason. Even as his house has been vandalized and other things start to make no sense as Conrad would claim that the company who handles the game has gone out of control. There is a structure to the script as much of the second act is about the game while the third is Nicholas trying to find out more about this company and expose them to see if he’s still playing or something else has happened.
David Fincher’s direction is definitely stylish in terms of the moods and compositions he creates as it play into a man taking part into the world of the unknown. Shot largely on location in San Francisco, the film plays into this world that mixes the corporate business side with a wild side as Nicholas is not familiar with the latter. Fincher’s meticulous compositions in the usage of the medium shots and close-up play into that sense of cold and unforgiving world that Nicholas lives in as Fincher presents Nicholas in a somewhat detached way. Once the game begins, the direction becomes more intimate and eerie as well as having some bits of dark humor. The lines of reality and fantasy would blur where Fincher doesn’t try to make anything distinctive only for the fact that a game is being played. At the same time, it is about the sense of the unknown where San Francisco is a character in the film where Fincher uses some wide shots to establish some of its landmarks.
The direction also has Fincher use some flashbacks shown in 8mm film as it play into the guilt and loss that Nicholas is carrying which adds to his loner persona. Yet, he realizes that he will have to depend on those who are willing to help him such as Christine. Still, there is that blur of who is playing what and are any of them in on the game or have no clue that they’re in a game. The film’s climax definitely ups the ante in terms of its intensity where Nicholas tries to decipher what is real and what is fantasy as well as face some of his own fears that had been looming into his life. Overall, Fincher creates a thrilling yet provocative film about a man playing a game of death where he is forced to confront his own fears and flaws about himself.
Cinematographer Harris Savides does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography from the usage of filters and lights for some of the interior scenes as well as the scenes set at night while creating a cold look for some of the exteriors set at night. Editor James Haygood does excellent work with the editing as it has some nice rhythmic cutting to play into the suspense and action as well as some of the darkly comic moments in the film. Production designer James Beecroft, with art directors James J. Murakami and Steve Saklad and set decorator Jackie Carr, does fantastic work with the look of the interior at Nicholas‘ home as well as the look of the office where the people of the game work and the hotel rooms in San Francisco‘s finest hotels. Costume designer Michael Kaplan does nice work with the costumes from the expensive suits that Nicholas wears early in the film to the more casual look he would sport later on as well as the clothes of the other characters.
Visual effects supervisor Kevin Haug does terrific work with some of the minimal visual effects as it mostly relates to the film‘s climax it play into that blur of reality and fantasy. Sound designer Ren Klyce does amazing work with the sound work as it has many layers into the locations that Nicholas encounters as well as in the phone conversations he has. The film’s music by Howard Shore is superb for its haunting yet bombastic score as its orchestral flourishes swell into the drama and suspense while music supervisor Dawn Soler creates a fun soundtrack that features elements of jazz, classical, and contemporary music.
The casting by Don Phillips is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Spike Jonze as a EMT, Linda Manz as Christine’s roommate, Yuji Okumoto as the Nikko hotel manager, Tommy Flanagan as a solicitor/taxi driver, Mark Boone Junior as a shady private detective following Nicholas, and Charles Martinet as Nicholas and Conrad’s father in the flashback scenes. Anna Katarina is wonderful as Nicholas’ ex-wife Elizabeth who only appears briefly late in the film as someone who has moved on but is starting to see that Nicholas is having some revelations about himself. Carroll Baker is terrific as Nicholas’ maid Ilsa as a woman who has been taking of Nicholas’ home yet knows a lot about Nicholas’ father once he starts to ask her about him. Peter Donat is superb as Nicholas’ attorney Samuel Sutherland as someone who watches over and handles some of Nicholas’ business as he becomes evasive later in the film. Armin Mueller-Stahl is excellent as Anson Baer as a businessman that Nicholas tries to buy out only to be just as eccentric and mysterious as he is fun to watch.
James Rebhorn is fantastic as Jim Feingold as a man who is an analyst for the company that creates the game as he is this eccentric yet fun guy that brings so much joy into his performance. Deborah Kara Unger is amazing as Christine as a waitress whom Nicholas meets during his game as she becomes this unlikely player that becomes part of the game as she tries to figure out what is going on. Sean Penn is brilliant as Conrad as Nicholas’ estranged younger brother who would introduce his brother to the game saying it will change his life only to find himself owing money to the company that created the game. Finally, there’s Michael Douglas in an incredible performance as Nicholas Van Orton as a wealthy investment banker who is quite cold and distant where he is given the thrill of a lifetime where Douglas gives a performance that is exhilarating as a man who encounters fear and danger as it is one of his great performances.
The Game is a phenomenal film from David Fincher that features a sensational performance from Michael Douglas. Along with a great supporting cast, eerie visuals, a chilling music score, and a crafty screenplay that blur the lines between reality and fiction. It’s a film that isn’t just a smart and engaging thriller but also a study of fear and control. In the end, The Game is a spectacular film from David Fincher.
David Fincher Films: Alien 3 - Se7en - Fight Club - Panic Room - Zodiac - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - The Social Network - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011 film) - Gone Girl
Related: 15 Essential Music Videos by David Fincher - The Auteurs #61: David Fincher
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The big reveal during the last 30 min means it's a movie that to me works great on first watch. I didn't like it as much on rewatch, because the secrets were known. I agree it's a good screenplay though with twists and turns.
I was surprised by these twists towards the end but since it had been some years since I've seen it. I kind of knew what was happening and who played what but it made it more intriguing.
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