The Game

The Game

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Michael Douglas has a habit of returning from the dead. Just when he's switched onto autopilot (Basic Instinct), he'll resurrect qualities of acting that scare you at nights (Falling Down). Here, as the cold, manipulative, old-moneyed investment banker, Nicholas van Orton, in David Fincher's The Game, he is electrifying.

Gordon Gekko (Wall Street), with whom he won an Oscar, had stiletto charm. Van Orton is too powerful to bother with that. He lives alone in the family mansion in San Francisco and conducts his life as if the rest of the world exists for his benefit.

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Fincher is a visual stylist in the fashion of Joel Coen. Who can forget the brooding horror of Se7en, with its scaly light and fetid interiors? His evocation of Nicholas's home and office has a haunting quality and Douglas carries the van Orton ancestry with an arrogance ingrained in privilege. This man is a master of control, fearful of the memory of coming home from school, aged 11, in the chauffeur driven car and seeing his father in his dressing gown on the roof of the house about to dive to his death on the gravel outside the front door.

The Game is surprise, dressed as paranoia. Nicholas's younger brother (Sean Penn) signs him up with CRS, a mysterious organisation that makes things happen, like a practical joke industry, except these jokes are too dark to laugh about. The result is that Nicholas's world collapses like a house of cards, his self-assurance dissolves into panic, his life veers between fear and confusion.

The film is reminiscent of Jacob's Ladder in its ability to make you question the meaning of reality and it is to Fincher's great credit that only at the end does it slip over the edge of reason.

Reviewed on: 07 May 2006
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The Game packshot
An arrogant millionaire discovers that all that glitters is fake.
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Director: David Fincher

Writer: John Brancato, Michael Ferris

Starring: Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, James Rebhorn, Deborah Kara Unger, Peter Donat, Carroll Baker, Armin Mueller-Stahl

Year: 1997

Runtime: 128 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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If you like this, try:

Jacob's Ladder