We sat, satisfied as if after a large meal, as the credits rolled. Outside the theatre, at three in the morning, clusters of people stood around with gleams in their eyes, discussing what they had just seen – usually it’s just our little movie-going group that does that. Grins and wide, excited eyes adorned the faces of my companions and myself. We did not say much along the lines of “Ooh and that part where he does the thing and then it – ” ‘Yeah!” because all we had to say was, “That was one cool, great, excellent film!”
On the drive home, non-illustrative but accurate comments popped like bubbles: “Cool.” “Wow.” “Yeah!.” “Damn!”
The previews for The Game might almost give too much away, so please don’t expect any plot revelations in this review. Suffice it to say that it is a very interesting story compounded by a suspense that myself and my viewing friends agreed was Hitchcockian. Imagine your favorite Twilight Zone episode, or North by Northwest without the boring parts, and how you reveled in the unnerving feeling of not knowing exactly what was REALLY happening to the lead character. Imagine the late-90’s paranoia fever spreading in the wake of the X-Files applied with a very masterful brush and NOT involving a government agency or aliens.
MAN, I really dug this movie. It is engaging (2 hrs and 13 minutes flew by) and unnerving and exciting. There are some genuine “oh my god no no oh my god!” moments and a really whacked conclusion. Hey, sounds like Seven. But it’s not Seven. It is, however, a 10. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
A person I know was talking about plot elements and saying that they were too open ended, that the premise was flawed because there is no way to engineer so many elements (you will see what I am talking about) – my argument is that they interfered when they needed to and they didn’t when they didn’t and…well, this review is making no sense.
Director David Fincher, once a black mark in my book for murdering the Alien saga with Alien3, and who has since redeemed himself with Seven, is now my flavor of the month.
The Game is much warmer and richer than Seven (but really, he had nowhere to go but up, didn’t he?) but it has that captivating uneasiness that made Seven such a hit. It does skip the moralizing on the part of the bad guy that Seven has – because really, who is the bad guy in The Game? Michael Douglas, whatever you may think of him as an actor (I like him), is better than any other star I can think of at playing a control freak losing control, or combining intense intent with debilitating fear. It worked for him in War of the Roses and Falling Down especially. Other characters don’t look like leads in a movie, so we don’t know if they are important or not. Extras always blend into the background, and lead actors always look more distinctive – it’s a casting science to which I have been directly privy. The Game stars MIchael Douglas and Sean Penn as his brother and a jillion extras and no one knows who will play what size part. Man, I can’t tell you ANYTHING. But I am saying all kinds of double meanings here, trust me.
In the preview you see a wooden clown, a classic symbol of creepiness, and then you see a lot of unclear, frightening looking situations. This is as much as I will reveal to you – just go see this movie and we’ll discuss later. The Game will be excellent watercooler fodder for some time to come. Even innocuous decisions that we as audience members routinely make while watching a movie (i.e. the bum standing by the phone is just a bum and maybe he will get a line asking for change but he plays no part in the bigger picture) are worthless to you now.
Another great, retrospective twist (maybe I should have waited a couple of days before writing this) is that we, as American audiences, are used to having that kind of control over our movie-watching experience: The cowboys with black hats will start a gun fight. The ensigns with red shirts will get eaten by the aliens. The dog will live, the kids will make it out of the subway, all these conventions allow us to sit back and watch the Main Story unfold, confident that subplots like the life of the neighbor’s dog are taken care of. The Game wrests control of that moviewatching experience until the end, where, like Douglas’ character, we don’t know what to think at all, and, also like him, we just have to hang on and react the way we would react and let the ride take us.
Wow, this movie is better than I thought. Either that, or I am a brilliant reviewer. :)
I found the movie to be visually stimulating (but not annoyingly so), psychologically engaging, and I wanna see it again very soon. And I will pay full price the second time, too. Should you? Does Rose Kennedy have a black dress?
The Game revisited – two months later
If you haven’t seen The Game already, run out and rent it. I will do my best not to give anything away in this review.
I really liked this movie when it came out, I liked it a lot. My friend hadn’t seen it, so we rented it. Simple enough. A second viewing gets demoted to rental because it doesn’t have the better-the-second time slyness that Dead Again has, nor does it somehow make you forget the ending like Running on Empty does. It is still interesting, and it’s fun to try and look for clues along the way, much as with Presumed Innocent. However, Fincher is so determined to not let you figure out what is going on, the Game is played so perfectly, that the joy of repeated viewings is diminished by the general absence of sly and subtle arrows to the end.
I read in some magazine that in one scene in a car, Sean Penn is supposed to be holding back laughter, which we would know to look for the 2nd time around to show his role in the thing. I think the author was exaggerating Penn’s behavior in that scene. But that is the kind of thing I would have wanted to see on a second showing – all the almosts and the wow-imagine-if-he’s that make a complicated story a pleasure to revisit.
Dead Again I think I have seen maybe 10 or more times. Every time I get something new out of it and it is just delicious to see how they give the ending away from a retrospective perspective (that doesn’t sound right!). If you have seen the Game and Dead Again once each, rent Dead Again and just treasure your memories of the Game. More satisfying that way.
MPAA Rating R-language, some violence and sexuality.
Release date 9/16/97
Time in minutes 128
Director David Fincher
Studio Polygram Releases