The Game is probably David Fincher’s least well-known film, although when you have Se7en, Fight Club and Zodiac, not to mention the brilliant The Social Network on your CV it perhaps isn’t all that surprising. It’s a shame though because this 1997 thriller is an absolute cracker of a film and has Michael Douglas in fine form.
He plays Nicholas van Orton, an investment banker approaching his 48th birthday. It’s especially significant as this was the age his father committed suicide. For despite his huge wealth, Van Orton lives alone in his San Francisco mansion, divorced from his wife and with little but his work to occupy him. On his birthday his brother Conrad (Penn) meets him for lunch and gives him a gift. It’s an invitation to a game run by a company called Consumer Recreation Services who provide an ongoing vacation tailored individually to each person. “Think of it as an experiential book of the month club,” says CRS salesman Jim Feingold (James Rebhorn). Somewhat unwillingly, Van Orton decides to take part but it soon seems that far from being a game, his life is in very real danger.
As you’d hope and expect from a Fincher film the pacing of The Game is excellent, and in this case is almost relentless once the ‘game’ begins. With echoes of North by Northwest as Van Orton struggles to understand what on earth is going on, the plot twists and turns and it’s virtually impossible to know who to trust. Douglas is superb as the arrogant banker who is usually master of his own destiny but suddenly finding himself completely out of control. Although he has everything materially, he has nothing in any other regard and has long since shut down his emotions, which makes forming meaningful relationships almost impossible.
An intriguing rollercoaster of a movie, The Game has a snappy script, a masterful performance from Michael Douglas and is a consistently enjoyable experience, even on subsequent viewings. On a technical note, the transfer to Blu-ray isn’t all that impressive and the lack of extras (see below) is disappointing and smacks of cashing in. It’s a real shame because a film of this quality deserves better but don’t let it put you off if you’ve never seen it – you’re in for a dark, entertaining treat.
EXTRAS Not so much as a trailer. Come on Universal, put some effort in!