The Game

The Game ★★★★★

91/100

The Game, directed by David Fincher, is one of the few cinematic creations that uses its slyly hidden seams and puppetry strings as a way to enhance cathartic outpourings. In this eerie odyssey, Cinema isn't used as a canvas, but as a sort of freewheeling construction space. Our dreams, failures, and perceptions of time and reality aren't visualized, but projected, and the opening "memory montage" even begins with a gradual ratio change. It's as if an invisible specter is adjusting the frame as the viewer is being drawn in, and it is this gentle switch of awareness that alludes to the sinister joyride ahead.

The theatrical poster, showcasing Michael Douglas' head unraveling into puzzle pieces, is in and of itself, a clue to the interlocking mechanisms of The Game. Puzzle pieces are shown to be falling apart, but a descending trail of those parts visualize a theme of bread crumbs. Many audiences unknowingly get swept into the tapestry of a particular film, and David Fincher takes that mentality and shakes it up like a cheap snow-globe. In The Game, a slick and adventurous mystery is front and center, but Fincher is crafty in his trails of hints and winks.

In a sense, to say that The Game is implausible and unrealistic is missing the entire point of the film (I don't want to be THAT guy, but...), especially because Fincher is obviously delving into the very joys of creating and crafting cinema. Unlike a magic trick, Fincher doesn't care if the audience notices the way it all comes together, and in repeat viewings, it seems like Fincher is urging the audience to practically pick apart every nuance of framing, lighting, and character expression.

Within this mood of visible fabrication comes the danger of losing emotional heft or genuine feeling, but The Game deploys its fun-house vibe in order to intensify the relationship with the main protagonist and his own interactions. Even with its artificial styling (Fincher is as sleek as can be here), the heartfelt core never falls into such detachment, and the mix of falsification and wrenching ceremony culminates in a mesmerizing finale that reeks of truth and purity.

After viewing The Game again almost makes me want to rank it as Fincher's masterpiece, but with other landmark works such as Zodiac and Se7en, I realize that might be a slight stretch to say. However, it is nothing less than a supremely accomplished film, one that dives into a rabbit hole while simultaneously reveling in otherworldly intrigue, and it showcases the cinema as the true wizard behind the curtain.

We may see the seams, but does that make it any less real?

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