Movie Review: The Game (1997)

Starring: Michael Douglas, Deborah Kara Unger and Sean Penn

Directed by: David Fincher

A wealthy banker is given a mysterious gift by his brother for his birthday. The gift is to take part in a game where the details are rather vague but soon after the game starts his life begins to turn upside down and it becomes hard to distinguish between the game and reality.

Having watched Michael Douglas struggle a little bit in Last Vegas the other night as he tried stepping out of his comfort zone and try his hand at a crude comedic role, I wanted to watch one of his movies where he plays a dramatic role as it’s where he thrives. The Game has been a movie on my radar for a while as the plot sounded intriguing and the movie poster is one that appealed to me but I’ve never really found the time to fit it in to my never ending quest of watching as many different movies as I can, until now.

The movie started off at quite a slow and methodical pace to establish lead character Nicholas Van Orton’s (Michael Douglas) back story with a lot of details concerning his past such as the relationship with his brother, his business venture, his father’s passing as well as his failed marriage. On the day of his birthday he arranges to go out to dinner with his brother Conrad (Sean Penn) who gives Nicholas a gift card for CRS (Consumer Recreation Services) which make Nicholas take part in a game that at first seems stupid to the wealthy investment banker but slowly it starts to effect and take over his life as he doesn’t know who he can trust and is unable to tell the difference between game and reality as they begin to distort into the same thing. Convinced that the game creators have scammed him to steal his vast fortune Nicholas tries to strike back and take the fight to the mysterious people involved with ruining his life.

Michael Douglas as Nicholas Van Orton really suited the rich, arrogant, self absorbed role and compared to his performance in the previous movie I saw him in, Last Vegas, he was superb in comparison. I feel these type of roles in a mystery drama type movie really suit Michael Douglas down to a tee and the movie greatly benefits from casting him in such a role. The game that Nicholas is taking part in really is tense and packed full of twists and turns and I feel the story telling combined with the acting quality of Michael Douglas and co-star Deborah Kara Unger is wonderful. Unger plays Christine who we are led to believe is just a waitress and a bystander that gets caught up in the craziness of the game but she isn’t as innocent as she appears as Nicholas begins to unravel the mystery that he’s participating in.

The Game remains both gripping and mysterious throughout and really draws you in as you’re left guessing right the way until the end. Thankfully this is a movie that does answers all the questions that you are left with but the reason and purpose behind Conrad gifting Nicholas “the game” seemed a little absurd as there must’ve been easier ways in order to get the same message across. One of the main problems that The Game has is that it’s a movie that you can only really watch and enjoy once as once you’re aware of the twists and turns and everything that is happening I can’t imagine a rewatch being as entertaining or fulfilling.

Overall, The Game is a grossly thrilling movie that is shrouded in mystery which keeps the audience guessing throughout. A solid performance by Michael Douglas as he carries most of the weight of the movie on his shoulders and delivers a fine piece of acting. Another feather in the cap for director David Fincher.


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