Take a second and think about your life. You have a pretty set schedule right? Get up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch TV and go to sleep and repeat. Pretty dull no? Imagine getting a card when day at your birthday inviting you to open your life into a completely different world of change. Would you necessarily change? And what would come from the change? That is what David Fincher looks at in his 1997 film The Game.
Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is your typical investment banker. Hi… life is completely in order and he knows exactly what is going on, why it’s going on and when it’s going on. And Nicholas likes his life in this order. His brother Conrad Van Orton (Sean Penn) knows that his brother’s life needs a reshuffle so he decides to give his brother a card to a company called CRS, which Conrad tells Nicholas he tried while in London. Curious at what CRS is, Nicholas travels to their office and after nearly a day of tests that include questions like ‘Do I enjoy hurting small animals’, Nicholas receives a phone call saying that his application has been rejected. Now Nicholas is a man of order and is obviously annoyed by this. Then one evening he notices a small wooden clown in his driveway. Upon further inspection, Nicholas realizes that the clown has a key inside of it. This key marks the beginning of a series of strange events that demand Nicholas’s attention if he wants to survive this game.
What I enjoyed about The Game was that the film is essentially a puzzle. Sure it’s not the most complex puzzle, but it’s more of a puzzle on the human mind. Presented is the definition of a boring man. His life is simple and ordinary. How do you go about shuffling it up? Simply throw something into the equation that he wouldn’t expect. In this case for Nicholas, that unexpected part is being told what to do or think. Take a look at the reaction on Douglas’s face when CRS calls informing him that his application has been rejected. His first immediate response is a response of anger. He’s actually being told what to think and, worse for him, what to do. That is what makes director David Fincher such an interesting director. The plot for this film isn’t the most impressive, but the little things that Fincher does brought out the best in the film.
Obviously David Fincher is best known for films like Se7en and Fight Club. Here he directs this film with superb skill. There isn’t a moment throughout that we aren’t completely interested in what is happening to Nicholas or, more importantly, why it is happening. The moment Nicholas receives this letter and realizes something or someone is messing with his structured life we begin to see the anger and frustration in the eyes and motions of Nicholas. Actor Michael Douglas proves that he knows how to perform in a role of this nature (his role here reminded me a lot of his role in A Perfect Murder). A very subdued role for a majority of the film, but when he needs to show emotion, boy does he show it.
I personally can’t believe that it took me this long to see this film. The Game is highly entertaining throughout as we follow the path Nicholas must suddenly take in his typically normal, mundane life. That’s what I have to thank HD material for. The new releases of films like these are getting me to see those older films I’ve always wanted to see. And if this film is any sign of what Fincher can do, maybe it’s finally time I sit down and see Fight Club.
Presented in a 1080p, VC-1 Encoded, 2:35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, The Game is another one of those Universal titles that I began to worry about after watching about 5-10 minutes of the film. Luckily the image improved dramatically.
The single strongest point of the image here was the abundance of the color black. Anyone who’s seen this film will know that Fincher shoots a majority of the film using darker backdrops. I expected a fair share of grain especially when you consider that the SD DVD of this film was, in all fairness, not the best. Universal has touched this one up quite a bit. Detail has been improved as the darker sequences have a greater depth and sharpness to them. Take a look at the sequence when Nicholas and Christine are in the elevator and it stops working. They soon climb out and we can make out all the little detail. While this may not be the biggest thing for most, I was impressed at the level of detail.
Besides color usage, the film’s print definitely has been touched up here. Grain was noticeable but noticeable in more of an accentuating manner instead of a cumbersome manner. Mark this one in another of Universal’s great effort columns.
Arriving with the standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 in English, The Game doesn’t have first-rate audio, but more the type of audio that is perfect for the film’s atmosphere.
Now this isn’t exactly the type of film that would scream home theater as it is a rather heavy dialogue film, but the little effects make this one quite enjoyable to listen to. Dialogue was clear and easy to understand, which was a surprise because I sometime find that Michael Douglas (possibly due to his accent) is hard to understand (is it just me or does he seem to mumble?). The film’s surrounds were generally quiet throughout never really becoming overly active besides a few little sequences. Dynamic Range was also fairly underused as I only noticed a handful of effects. The score by Howard Shore was an interesting one for me. Obviously Shore is known for his efforts on the Rings trilogy, but his earlier work proved that the man is capable on all levels. While this isn’t the best idea of HD audio, this track is just fine.
Unless you count the film’s theatrical trailer as a feature, this one is completely devoid of features.
The Game is a great film in the simply words. Director David Fincher has presented what happens when you introduce change into a man’s life of normalcy. Universal gives The Game a fine treatment on the V/A side, but doesn’t give us ONE feature AT ALL? What gives? Due to this I must recommend that all the biggest fans of the film buy this one. Those that play on the side of caution, give this one a rental to see if you enjoy the film.