FINCHERFEST: The Game

26 09 2010

Fincher followed up the resounding success of “Se7en” with 1997’s “The Game,” a cerebral thriller that was received notably less well both financially and critically.

I made the slight complaint with “Se7en” that I had seen a similar premise done a little bit better.  With “The Game,” I have a similar grievance.  The movie was, in essence, the same as the 2008 paranoid thriller “Eagle Eye” with much lower stakes and much less intrigue.  Both involve people getting played by some system bigger than they can comprehend, and both follow the struggles of the people trying to escape the oppression of this omniscient system.

Michael Douglas headlines as banking mogul Nicholas Van Orton, a man who has chosen money over relationships.  He is estranged from his younger brother Conrad (Sean Penn) and let his relationship with his most recent wife fall by the wayside.  The problems can all be traced back to his father’s suicide while he was a young boy, and the effects of the life-shattering decision continue to affect him decades later.

But things all change after a mysterious birthday gift turns into an all-encompassing game designed to challenge his priorities.  Reality begins to blur in this game, although not as intensely as it does in a movie like “Inception.”  Van Orton feels mildly disoriented and wonders whether every suspect thing in his life is happening because of the game.  Eventually, his anxieties lead him to demand answers from the organization that set up this game.

By no means am I saying that “The Game” isn’t good.  The premise keeps us interested the whole time, although the ending is wholly unsatisfying because it wraps up way too neatly.  Fincher’s attempt to recreate a very tense atmosphere of terror just isn’t quite as effective as it is in “Se7en,” and the paranoia is totally missing.  This thriller lacks any sort of thrill, making it little more than just a series of events with the hope of a bigger twist waiting at the end.

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