The Game can be described in a phrase that has been thrown around a lot lately: mind-bending. I associate that term with the increasingly popular genre of movies that question the nature of reality. Most recently, with the release of Inception, this genre has come up a lot in discussion. The obvious films to point to are The Matrix trilogy, and that comparison is notable. But The Game is a film that I feel is of at least equal of equal stature and deserves equal recognition in that notion. The film takes a fully unique and more down-to-earth approach to the mind-bending, reality-questioning genre.
The plot is relatively simple, centering on a Scrooge-like figure named Nick, a perfect match for Michael Douglas, and his previously drug-addicted brother played by Sean Penn. His brother claims to have been cured by this organization that puts on some sort of role-play. The game starts out small, with a clown statue and a key. Then, while watching the news, he notices the T.V. is talking to him. Eventually, he finds himself in something of a mad-Hitchcockian suspense story either of mistaken identity or an extensive scam.
What I appreciate most about it, is that it questions reality in a more tangible way than dream sequences and computers. Nick can see everything that is happening to him, it is real, he just isnâ€™t sure why. There are a few possible explanations, but none of them see likely. The fact that one of them has to be keeps the audience riveted.
Having said that, this film is not for those who complain about plausibility in films. Literally, what happens to Nick is infeasible by any explanation of the filmâ€™s plot and could not occur for any realistic amount of money, regardless of how obscenely rich Nick is portrayed as being. There are car chases, explosions, rigged T.V.â€™s, massive public renovations, not to mention the assumption of exactly how Nick would behave. And no one seems to notice. And what happens to his career during this?
I could care less about the specifics because that is not really what the film is about. The nature of its preposterousness is the purpose. It asks of its audience to look at the possibilities and gives us a solution. It is the ultimate â€œwhat if?â€ In the end, there is no way to make it work, but the rationale doesnâ€™t matter, what matters is how to respond to the situations and predicaments we see Nick in. His responses teach him to see the world in the way that he is lacking. Although this is a horribly round-about way of curing onesâ€™ Scrooge-esque nature, it makes for great philosophical entertainment. Entertainment complimented by a well-chosen cast and a director that knows how to tell a visually eccentric tale.
The Game is certainly not Fincherâ€™s strongest film, but it was a solid follow-up to his great debut, Se7en. It is a relatively simple-minded story that goes a few steps beyond the typical blockbuster. As is typical with Fincherâ€™s work, entertainment is the filmâ€™s primary motive, but social subtext is readily accessible just below the surface.