The Game (USA, 1997)

gameDirected by: David Fincher. And here we go, another box checked off of the Fincher list. Overall…not too shabby, pretty good. And yet, kind of over the top. The film is so clever that it seeks to undo itself—you know? It becomes so obvious that the “game” of the film’s plot, the way that Michael Douglas’ emotions are being played with, the fact that his whole life of seemingly spontaneous events and conversations are “actually” a deliberately planned, meticulously constructed fabrication, is meant to be a mirror for the audience to reflect upon themselves, how we are watching a series of fictitious, planned events that are being passed off as spontaneous. Movie imagery comes up over and over, from that great shot of Van Orton standing up in the film screening during his initial “testing”, to the explicit utterance of film industry jargon at the end: “It’s all been fake up to now, special effects like you see in the movies; fake bullets, fake blood, squibs…” There’s a deliberate wedge placed between the film and the audience watching the film, and I find that pretty interesting. In his next movie, Fight Club, he buries the self-consciousness a bit more on the thematic side and lets it come to the surface more visually—that Fincherian feel that we know—but not so much that he doesn’t allow for the audience to immerse themselves in the characters. The entire world of Fight Club is a “lie” based on the deliberate deception and withholding of information from the audience, and there’s a big reversal at the end, and even a lot of film talk (the splicing of subliminal images in the projection room, etc), but it’s still a very immersive movie, partly owing to its breathtaking pace; there’s not a lot of time to sit and reflect on the act of watching a movie in Fight Club. And of course, in Panic Room, this is muted further still, so that virtually all of the self-consciousness is in the visual style—and there’s plenty to spare there—so that on the surface, the exact same plot with a different, less jarring visual style, would pass for a 100% seamless, unremarkable, typical Hollywood movie. So it’s all the more interesting that this movie, which unsurprisingly didn’t do that well at the box office, shows you this tendency in reverse: muted, almost unrecognizably normal visual style, with a few telltale Fincher-y compositions like the opening scenes of the car driving down the road, but otherwise lacking in that trademark sleek darkness and characteristic dull green hue covering everything, but a plot that very deliberately keeps the viewer at arm’s length even as the very compelling and fast-paced action of the movie is working to draw us in. So there’s all that stuff. Really, just go see the stupid thing. It’s a very Michael Douglas-y role for Michael Douglas, and a nice little turn from Sean Penn, and a nice variation on the whole 90’s conceit of your-whole-life-and-everything-you-think-is-reality-is-actually-fake, etc etc etc……Or is it?????

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One response to “The Game (USA, 1997)

  1. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2015 | Offhand Reviews·

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