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Festivale Spring 1997

The Game

There's a certain kind of good movie that delights by being unpredictable. You think you know where the story goes, but like a bad cab driver (one of whom this movie contains) it takes you there by the scenic route.

Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is a 48 year old millionaire whose life is cold and alienated. He's a control freak. His brother Conrad (Sean Penn) gives him an unusual present for his birthday. A game organised by a shadowy corporation called Consumer Recreation Services.

Michael Douglas and Sean Penn in The Game

Michael Douglas and Sean Penn in The Game

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Reluctantly, but somewhat intrigued, Van Orton becomes involved in the real life game. His television starts talking to him, his pen leaks before a business meeting, his attache case won't open. Then the game takes a sinister turn and the possibility of it being a scam to get Van Orton's millions becomes increasingly likely.

This film plays with reality in a way somewhat reminiscent of Richard Rush's The Stunt Man. What is real and what is artifice? Is that just someone walking by or is it an actor in your game?

David Fincher, the guy who directed Alien 3 then came good on Seven continues the winning streak with this one. As in Seven, the theme of manipulation by outside forces continues in The Game. In spite of the fact that there's no clear villain or any particular love interest, (Deborah Unger doesn't quite qualify) the film never flags. Clues are salted around the screen at various times, Van Orton's predicament takes weird, horrible and wonderful turnings and the audience is manipulated in a way that makes us part of the game.

For a medium-big budget Hollywood film, this one gives us the goodies more than megahyped flicks like Men in Black . It engages the brain as well as the visual cortex and that's quite rare in the product coming from the big boys these days.

Michael Douglas is creating a career in which he's becoming a kind of noir icon for the nineties. Movies like Falling Down, Disclosure, The Game and Basic Instinct show him playing flawed, driven characters who meet just what it takes to crack them. (His father did similar in movies like The Bad and the Beautiful and The Big Carnival and in several moments in The Game, Michael's resemblance to Kirk is striking.) He's starting to become interesting to watch.

buyreel.jpg - 5045 Bytes Check this movie out. It's fun.

Terry Frost

see also: Ali's review
This film was our 1997 film of the year (Reviewer's choice)

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Just the Facts:
Title: The Game (128min)
(M15+) Medium Level coarse Language, Low level violence.
Written by: John Brancato & Michael Ferris
Directed by: David Fincher
Produced by: John Brancato, Michael Ferris (co) Jonathan Mostow (exec)
Edited by: James Haygood
Director of Photography: Harris Savides
Polygram Filmed Entertainment, Propoganda Films
The Players: Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, James Rebhorn, Deborah Kara Unger, Peter Donat, Carroll Baker, Anna Katarina, Armin Mueller-Stahl
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Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Filed: 25-Sep-1997 : Last tested: 3-Jul-2014: Last Compiled: 3-Jul-2014
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