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The Unexplored Shadows Of Our Realities: Ranking David Fincher
Review In A Nutshell:
David Fincher has always been a great admirer of Hitchcock; the influence could be seen in both his early and later films, including Alien 3. It was in the way he handled suspense and the methods on how his climaxes unfold that brings the attention of the Master of Suspense. The Game would be one of his most prime examples of Fincher utilising Hitchcock's methods, but doing so where it comes off as a homage rather than a rip-off. The familiar elements are there; the likeable and sympathetic leading man, a quality that actor Michael Douglas attempts to display a blend of Cary Grant's fierceness and James Stewart's vulnerability; the cool blonde, which actress Deborah Kara Unger plays with almost complete parallel to Eva Marie Saint in North By Northwest; and to wrap it all off, it contains layer upon layer of suspense and mystery that drives to a conclusion that explodes in our faces.
The film begins with a collection of silent footage of the central character's (Nicholas Van Orton) childhood. It is revealed that his family consists of mostly just him, his father and younger brother. In the age of 48, his father jumped off the roof of their home, falling to his death; a suicide that forced Nicholas in filling that empty role for his brother. We then see him as a grown man on his 48th birthday; he is now running the family company and is currently successful. Nicholas and his brother, Conrad Van Orton, meet for lunch at a restaurant, where he gives him his birthday present; a voucher for a program, run by a private company called Consumer Recreation Services, which would supposedly open his eyes and change his life. Nicholas promised that he would call them, but is slightly reluctant due to his busy schedule. The day after, he stumbles upon CRS' building and decides to take up on that offer. For the whole day, he has been placed through physical, emotional, and psychological tests and documents in order for the company to gain an idea of the participant's capabilities, and probably to avoid issues regarding insurance. Little does Nicholas know on the adventure that he ignorantly embarked on, an experience that would he would never forget.
The Game's underlying driving force is its curiosity; Nicholas pushed himself through an exhaustive application process, only for the reason that he was curious on what the hype is behind all of it. At first viewing, it was the curiosity that drove me as a viewer, in figuring out what exactly the point was of The Game, but with that gained knowledge when revisiting the journey, one could find the deep and subtle intentions behind it. The film possesses a small message about opening our minds to new experiences and not letting ourselves be succumbed to the unfortunate fates passed down from our ancestors. Instead of identifying with the emotions that Nicholas had to endure, I was now more in tuned with Conrad's sympathetic intentions for Nicholas. There is certainly emotional weight that carries throughout the film, which plays an essential role in allowing subsequent viewings to remain compelling, especially since the film's core secret has been revealed. A lazy director would have easily dismissed the brotherly element of the story, and would have placed more focus on the superficial journey itself; but since it was under Fincher's thoughtful direction, the film no doubt elevates from its obvious shortcomings.
The Game is no doubt a manipulation of Nicholas' life, but Fincher adds a self-aware element towards it; almost winking at the audience as he places us in these dangerous situations with him. The film overall feels like a much smaller version of North By Northwest; a film that puts its central character through a serious situations, driven by constantly appearing plot drivers that would justify the exaggerated situations he is in. The Game constantly puts pressure on the central character to react a certain way; at first, the rationale behind his decisions aren't so clear, it is only in the subsequent viewings that would make the audience aware of it. This is an example of why Fincher is such an effective director, the way he manipulates our minds and emotions without becoming abundantly clear on it; The Game is Fincher essentially snickering at us for buying into it, but never reaching to the point of hurting the film's integrity.
Even when we come into the film with all of the facts, we still find ourselves completely moved by the ride, because the atmosphere that Fincher has created are strong enough to encapsulate the viewer, we cannot help but react a certain way; the film throughout carries a dark and heavy tone that forces the audience to look at the story and its characters with seriousness, in its undercurrent lies a comedic touch that never becomes evident at first because the film itself feels grim, but it is actually clever once you are aware of it. The film's final minutes of the second act begins to establish complications that possess a real and large threat to the character's existence. Fincher crafts the film in such a way that completely sucks us in, leaving the viewers consistently shocked with the big reveal; more emotionally rather than intellectually.
My only gripe with the film is the beginning of the third act lacking that sense of impact that the previous acts were able to deliver. The film's pace begins to slow significantly and the journey that the character embarks on simply lacks the events that would evoke emotional or intellectual stimulation. It was no doubt an area of the film that could have been tightened to maintain that sense of adrenaline that was left by the preceding scenes.
The Game is a thoughtful film that achieves even through subsequent visits; it is a film that would benefit when approached with an active and insightful mind, a method that would dissect the characters more than its story. Similar to Fincher's previous film, Se7en, do not dismiss the film once the secrets of its plot have been revealed, as tendency is Fincher has left you something to engage with in your return.