Spoilers think the only winning move is not to play.

I will never understand why this movie is so underrated. Even after all these years, this is one of those thrillers that has you on the edge of your seat. It always keeps you guessing because it doesn’t go back to explain anything. Everything is up for grabs and you can already guess it is from the start. If you are a fan of thrillers that play with your perception of established reality, watching this story unfold is a joy. If you want everything explained, please watch another movie.

(Credit: Propaganda Films)

The Game (1997) is directed by David Fincher based on the screenplay by John Brancato and Michael Ferris. Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is a powerful investment banker. His brother Conrad (Sean Penn) makes him a strange birthday gift. He is to receive an experience provided by a company called Consumer Recreation Services (CSR) known only as the game. Nicholas is not a particularly likeable guy. He’s a selfish and entitled asshole. If his brother would have told him that he’s going to be visited by three ghosts, I wouldn’t have been surprised. There’s a little bit of karma coming for him.

The storytelling in this film as well as Douglas’ performance is amazingly clear. We can already tell Nicholas is not impressed by his brother’s gift. You can see his mind already thinking that this is beneath him, but he eventually gets intrigued enough. Unfortunately, even as he signs up and fills up form after form he finds he’s not closer to knowing what he’s getting into. With curiosity getting the better of him, he inserts himself into a conversation with strangers only to hear high praise but no details whatsoever. It all seems to have gone nowhere. He even gets a call telling he’s been turned down.

This is the point where things will start going a little strange in his life. The fun begins for us, but it’s definitely over for Nicholas. This is where I want to tell you as little as possible just in case you’ve never seen it. Eventually Nicholas runs into Christine (Deborah Kara Unger), a waitress that he’ll eventually get fired and apparently drag into the crazy adventure that will eventually become a nightmare almost impossible to escape.

Extremely recommended. I know for a lot of people will praise David Fincher for Se7en and it well may be warranted, but I do consider this one superbly crafted and appealing as a mystery thriller in a class of its own. It does hold up to time, because it’s never trying to be spectacular. It’s not trying to sell you with mirrors and explosions, but with human drama. It has the flawed protagonist we don’t relate to and hence we’re not sure if we’re on his side or the side of his mysterious omniscient puppet master. We never see who is at the top. We’re never sure if the game is ever really over. Worth a watch and a place in your favourite movie collection.

That will do for now.