USA 1997, dir. David Fincher, 128m
David Finchers least hyped film is also his most inexplicably underrated, and it narrowly shades Fight Club as his finest achievement to date. All four of his features the first two were Alien3 and Se7en – are clever pieces of work, audacious, well-crafted and surprising, but The Game is the only one of the quartet which is about more than just that cleverness. Its probably no coincidence that its also, in many ways, the most conventional: on the surface, its a twisty psychological thriller about a smug businessman, Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas), whose life is turned upside down when his kid brother (Sean Penn) enrols him in The Game. Exactly what this game is, we never quite find out, but it involves a series of increasingly elaborate practical jokes which undermine Van Ortons sang-froid, his bank balance and his sanity. Enjoyable enough, but there’s more to The Game than meets the eye. Many first-time viewers complain that the film is ludicrous because the organisers of The Game wouldn’t know all of Van Ortons moves and reactions so far in advance but I think that this is what makes the movie special. The fact that in a climactic scene he lands right in the middle of an X (I won’t spoil the film by revealing any more) indicates that Van Orton is entirely predictable. Whether he’s a prisoner of capitalism, class, psychology or whatever is a matter of subjective opinion. But Van Orton is imprisoned by his character, and by the fact that he is a character – a pawn in the hands of the screenwriters and director, but under the delusion that he has free will. Hes a character in a film, surrounded by fake sets and actors, controlled by unseen forces. The Game is, of course, cinema, but its also life.
by Neil Young