The Game (1997)


While I didn't love The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, I loved every single other film by David Fincher I have seen — Se7en and Gone Girl are even favourites of mine. So when I decided to finally watch The Game I knew I was in for a treat. But boy did I miscalculate as I was not expecting it to be the tense, nerve-racking masterpiece it turned out to be. 

Set in San Francisco, the story follows Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas), a wealthy investment banker obsessed and driven by his work so much so that it got him a divorce, as well as no friends and no social life. On his forty-eight birthday — a critical one as his father (Charles Martinet) committed suicide at that age —, Nicholas goes out to lunch with his estranged, younger and free-spirited brother Conrad (Sean Penn), who gives Nicholas an interesting gift — an invite to participate in "the game", a tailored gaming experience provided by CRS organization. 

It's not clear what exactly this game is, and Nicholas is reluctant at first. Eventually, as he finds himself in the building where CRS is based, curiosity gets the better of him and takes up the offer. Days later, despite getting a call saying that his application was denied, he finds a strange clown doll in his driveway and he soon starts his descent into a rabbit hole of chaos and paranoia as the elaborate pranks pulled off by CRS goes from harmless to life-threatening. 

There really is nothing more to say about the plot as anything else would give away one of the many incredible twists and turns the story takes along the way, a compelling and engaging story that keeps you glued to the screen and guessing from start to finish. It is truly astonishing how well the writers pulled it off as whenever one of my suspicions turned out to be correct there was always another twist immediately afterwards that would leave me absolutely speechless *SPOILER* I figured out Nicholas didn't kill Conrad, mainly because the wound on him didn't coincide with the breakage of the bottle, but I was expecting it to be a ploy to have Nicholas kill himself. I definitely was not expecting it to be part of the game *SPOILER* Is it perfect? Absolutely not as there are a few plot holes now and then, and some parts of the game go a bit too far to be believable given the ending twist, but it certainly is an entertaining experience. 

It is impossible to watch The Game and not think of Gordon Gekko, Douglas's character in Wall Street. However, while the two share many similarities in terms of characterization, Nicholas isn't unlikeable, and villainous, but a likeable and sympathetic character, a lonely man who sees his control and power stripped away from him. Douglas gives a terrific performance as he makes the shift from calm, controlled man to scared, and confused believable, and really comes across as a man who has lost his grip on reality and would probably have a heart attack if it wasn't for all the adrenaline. 

As for the supporting characters, CRS is easily the most prominent. Although not the typical flesh and blood character, it is CRS that keeps challenging Nicholas in the most clever ways and makes for a great antagonist. Nicholas's brother Conrad, which is the opposite both in personality and temperament, doesn't have a lot of screen time but is just as important, and allows Penn to give an interesting performance. The only important female character, Christine (played by Deborah Kara Unger), is, unfortunately, a one-dimensional though. 

Fincher's direction is absolutely terrific. He delivers such a tense atmosphere, and the slowly building suspense enhances even more the sense of paranoia and anxiety that we feel throughout the film. The dark and gloomy cinematography by Harris Savides is also great, and the chilling score by Howard Shore fits the film to perfection. 

Ultimately, while it has its flaws, Fincher's The Game is an incredibly well-made thriller with a character we root for. 


  1. I really need to see this. I think this is the only Fincher film I haven't seen.