The Game (12/15/12)

The GameMovie Two Hundred Eighty One

A wealthy, emotionally distant investment banker receives a strange gift from his brother for his 48th birthday – a life-changing invitation to The Game.

Haunted by flashbacks from his father’s 48th birthday, which ended in the man committing suicide by jumping off the roof, Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas), a hugely wealthy investment banker, is nearing his own 48th birthday. Estranged from his ex-wife, Nicholas is emotionally cold to everyone around him, seeming to only care about the bottom line on his investments. One day, his carefree younger brother, Conrad (Sean Penn), visits Nicholas and gives him a certificate to a company called Consumer Recreation Services (CRS) to participate in “the game”, saying it will change his life. Doubtful, but curious, Nicholas goes to CRS and gets rejected from participating, but the game has really already begun, leaving Nicholas guessing what the game is really about.

Simply put, David Fincher is one of my favorite directors but for some reason The Game has eluded me. Now I’m not sure why I never sought out The Game, I’ve seen all of Fincher’s other work, but I’m so glad The Game has entered my life. I don’t tend to watch thrillers often because it’s like eating a rich dessert and I never want to grow tired of the good films. When a thriller is made well, it’s hard to top and The Game literally kept me guessing until the very end. The mystery and tension surrounding “the game” is so thick it practically oozes from the screen.

I have a feeling that there will be strong feelings about The Game’s ending and whether it’s satisfactory. At the time I watched the film, I was a bit deflated by it because I kept thinking “how is this going to end?!” but after having some time to think about the movie as a whole, I think the ending is pretty great, if not a bit too abrupt. This may be a case where the journey is the important thing, not the destination, but I liked the whole of The Game.

Criterion’s treatment of The Game is nothing short of stunning. Fincher had his hands in the production of this release and it shows. The film is dark and crisp and the soundtrack is amazing. Supplemental features are great too, with some excellent behind-the-scenes footage. This is definitely the version of The Game to see, especially when compared to the much lesser Netflix Instant source.

Fincher is known for his dark, moody, psychological movies ever since bringing us Seven and The Game, his follow-up to Seven, shows us what a talented director he is. The Game is the type of film that is so exhilarating to watch that you simply can’t take your eyes off the screen, trying to figure out what the game really is. I’m sure that finding out all the secrets the film holds is impossible on a first watch. While The Game may not be Fincher’s strongest film, it’s one of the better psychological thrillers I’ve ever seen.

I give it 5 Consumer Recreation Services out of 5.


Rotten Tomatoes


36 responses to “The Game (12/15/12)

  1. I’m a fan of David Fincher but for some reason haven’t seen this one. I saw the Criterion DVD a while ago but didn’t buy. I’ll have to check this one out. Nice review.

  2. I would definitely count myself as a fan of Fincher’s. And I really enjoyed The Game the first time around. But its plot holes become so glaringly obvious during subsequent viewings it’s hard to take it seriously – which is a fault of the screenplay – and not Fincher. But it definitely works first time round.

  3. I have not seen this since it came on VHS the first time, but I remember liking it. There’s a funny line where Michael Douglas says something like “it doesn’t matter if I want to buttfuck Captain Kangaroo.”

  4. One of Fincher’s finest and it’s not as sadistic as SEVEN though, of course, the game is one tremendously cruel joke. Douglas is as sleek as the opulent interiors. Jodie Foster was supposed to play Penn role but dropped out; that would have been even more interesting, I think….do you?

  5. Andy – I actually saw this in the theater when it came out and, like Issy above, the end didn’t do it for me. I (used to??) like Fincher and this just didn’t do it for me. I would definitely give the camera work five “long slow sweeping shots” out of five but the ending has always just rubbed me the wrong way.

  6. I also came to ‘The Game’ late. But I liked it a lot. Though the ending is ludicrous I think it kind of fits with what’s gone before. I’d have to watch it again coz it’s been awhile…

    5 out of 5 – high praise indeed.

  7. I believe I watched this movie in part due to a combination of my discovery of IMDB and the movie Seven, though at the time I was seeking movies that were written, at least in part, by Andrew Kevin Walker. It wasn’t until Fight Club and a college course in movies as art that I started paying more attention to directors. Great movie, it was also one of the very few VHSs I owned before transitioning to DVD. Was really glad when I saw that it finally got a Criterion release (or was it a re-release that I missed/was in limited availability?) now I need to re-pick it up again.

    • I thought Criterion might have handled the laser disc or something because some of the special features seem like they were made especially for the release…but the film was made in 97 so why sit on it for 15 years? It’s a really great release from them, especially if you owned the movie on VHS.

  8. Yeah I dunno why people always forget about The Game when talking about Fincher too. That said, I don’t own a copy of it either… which I should fix sometime.

  9. I don’t mind the ending. Interestingly, the more you watch it the more the ending seems to be right, while the rest of the film deflates slightly since you know what’s going on. I really enjoy this movie too. But I also feel like the guy at the beginning of the movie who tells Douglas he wishes he could play for the first time again. With THE GAME, the first time is absolutely the best.

  10. Pingback: Criterion Collection: The Game Review | The Filmster

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  12. It took a while to grow on me, but now I adore this film. Great site bud, I am now following. I recently started my own film blog and would love for you to check it out. It’s not as experienced as yours so be kind lol.

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