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The Game (1997): How to Win Friends and Influence People

The Game (David Fincher, 1997)

[originally posted 16Oct2000]

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Insert generic Falling Down joke here.

Having now seen The Game, I’ve seen (aside from a few of the music videos) everything David Fincher has put his hand to. And now I’m even more depressed about the last five minutes of Fight Club, because to a one, all of Fincher’s other films are purely fantastic from beginning to end.

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“What do you think I am, some kind of dummy? ANSWER ME!”

The Game follows Nicholas van Orton (Michael Douglas) through the eight days following his forty-eighth birthday. Van Orton’s father committed suicide on his forty-eighth birthday, so Nicholas’ deadbeat brother, Conrad (Sean Penn), decides to get him a really bang-up birthday present: a game from a shadowy company that’s tailored to each player. All well and good, but after a day or so, Nicholas is starting to wonder whether it’s a game at all, and exactly how far these people will go to protect their identities and create the fantasy world into which they’re pushing Nicholas.

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“Have you ever seen what a .44 can do to a woman’s face?”

Fincher’s trademarks are all here—darkness, claustrophobia, quick camera cuts, little tricks that heighten the suspense for the viewer and allow him to identify a little better with the character the movie is following. It’s wonderful stuff, aside from one little nagging out-of-character piece (Michael Douglas’ character really is a complete jerk, and one wonders why he’d have ever agreed to get involved with The Game in the first place), but by the end of the film, that particular question is lost in the dust that the rest of the movie manages to kick up. It’s not on the same reality-jarring level as Se7en was; more along the lines of Fincher’s earlier contribution to the Alien series: a whole lot of fun, a great way to kill two and a half hours, and a movie that kind of manages to leave you feeling both good and slightly nauseated at the end. All that was missing were the big, gooey monsters. *** ½



About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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