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The Game

Saw this when it first came out and had very little memory of it except for the ending. This time I watched it knowing what to expect and with an eye of seeing if the twist was feasibly set up. It wasn't.

What I thought then I still think now: the game turns too serious and too dangerous for the two critical elements at the end to be believable. First, that everything was, after all, a setup. (For example - how could CRS have known which part of the roof he would jump off?) Second, that - knowing all this - the Michael Douglas character Nicholas van Orton would just accept his "birthday present" as a joke, smile, and kill his brother and everybody else for torturing him, physically and mentally, for days.

There's an argument to be made that as well as being a birthday gift the game was a form of shock therapy, forcing van Orton to reconnect with his ex-wife and come to terms with his father's suicide. But while the former happened, you don't come to terms with a parent's suicide by trying to commit one yourself. As therapy (if it was so intended) it failed miserably, pushed him over the edge in fact (no pun intended). As a gag gift - again one could argue that the psychological testing assessed that even one as cruel as this would be considered acceptable by van Orton. The problem there is that while this could conceivably be true for the character, such sadism is not acceptable to the audience. At least not to me.

I think that there were two ways the film could have progressed to a more satisfying conclusion. Either the game really was a ploy by CRS to get to van Orton's money. Or the penultimate twist - that it was a present by his brother gone awry - turns out to be true. In the latter instance especially this would mean pulling back the curtain to the audience (second time viewers at least) more - planting clues throughout the film revealing the game's artificiality. (Maybe they're there already... but if so then they're too subtle for me.) That way, knowing audiences can view the film as a kind of tragedy, a joke gone horribly awry. Instead, unlike say - The Sixth Sense, there's no sense of "being in on it" when seeing the film a second time, no characters or events whose meaning is revised with hindsight.

That said, the film is designed and shot in a suitably alienating urban noir fashion (a Fincher trademark), the acting is good and - assuming you can suspend your disbelief long enough - the story does pull you along at an even pace.

Random observation: James Rebhorn has never looked more like James Cromwell.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 5, 2005 9:59 PM.

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