Let’s Talk: The Game
Welcome back to another LET’S TALK discussion, an opportunity to share thoughts, opinions, quotes and all things related on our selected movie of the week. The discussion is open for 7 days in order to allow everyone around the world to voice their thoughts.
I have been extremely fortunate to have some of my favourite movie gurus on Twitter hosting the last 3 weeks of the Let’s Talk discussions which have just been all kinds of interesting, insightful, and fun. I learnt a whole lot of the discussions generated, so if you missed the last few weeks, here’s a brief recap;
First @MelBWrites hosted The Avengers discussion and shared her passion for all thing Avengers related! Followed by @InTheFrame1 who hosted The Dark Knight discussion and educated us all on why Chris Nolan is a deadset legend! And then last week we had @CriminalMovies hosting the Cool Hand Luke discussion which made me appreciate Paul Newman in a whole new light!
This week I want to talk about a movie that I wish I could go back and watch again for the very first time, David Fincher’s The Game starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn.
To join the discussion, there are 2 ways to in;
The first way is the easiest, leave a comment on the post, and I will edit to be part of the conversation. The second way is to register on the site and you will have access to edit the post and add your opinion Oh and there will be spoilers discussed so if you haven’t seen the film yet, I suggest watching it and then coming back here to join in on the discussion.
So let’s get this discussion happening!
@Russell_Oz: If you’ve never seen The Game then you definitely need to STOP reading this and go and watch it. Now! It is absolutely one of my favourite movies and one that I wish I could go back in time and watch it again for the very first time! I must have seen it about 10 times now and every time that I watch it, all I think is, “Man, do you remember the very first time you watched this…”
The Game was released in 1997 and I’m pretty sure that I first watched it on VHS and not expecting much so that might be one of the main reasons that it holds a special place for me, it took me totally by surprise! I watched it not realising that it was a David Fincher film but years later when Fight Club was released I started going back through his back catalogue and then it made sense, I had been a David Fincher fan for quite a few years, without even realising it.
The Game is a movie gold trifecta for me; I’m a big Michael Douglas fan, it’s a David Fincher film, and the plot left me breathless!
So first question, what are your initial thoughts upon watching The Game?
@FuriousCinema: I love this movie, I thought it was really well made with a very intrigiuing story/plot. It was something I hadnt seen before which is a big reason why I thought it was so cool. It also had an excellent cast, Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, Debra Kara Unger are just wonderful. This was actually the movie that turned me into a fan of Fincher. As of right now Im not quite as much of a fan as I used to be though.
@CriminalMovies: It’s funny that you mentioned not realizing it was a Fincher film. I didn’t either, but once I realized it, it made perfect sense. The very cool thing about the movie is that I went into it with no idea what to expect. It’s got such a cool ending, both a shock and incredibly thoughtful. It’s hard to believe someone would think of “The Game” as a gift but it really is a brilliant one.
@Russell_Oz: I hear you loud and clear @FuriousCinema and @CriminalMovies, talk about a great plot! I think that was the best thing about it for me, I just didn’t know what was coming up next. I think that once you find a movie that keeps you guessing from beginning to end then it fast becomes a favourite!
@Bubbawheat: I believe I watched this movie right around the time I started really paying attention to the details of things like writers and directors. It was after I had watched Fight Club, 8MM, and Seven and started looking through other movies that were written by Andrew Kevin Walker and directed by David Fincher. I thought it was interesting that Andrew Kevin Walker was even an uncredited writer of this film. It’s a fantastic movie and it kept me guessing throughout the entire film. I imagine if I watched it again today it would be very similar to the first time since I remember so little of it outside of the very ending.
@Russell_Oz: Are you serious, @Bubbawheat? I had no idea that Andrew Kevin Walker was an uncredited writer on it! No wonder I loved it so much because I would easily put Se7en and The Game in the same league!!
@FuriousCinema: I actually did a little analysis of The Game and Fight Club where I compared Conrad to Tyler and Nicholas to Edward Nortons character. The connection being both men are lost and/or searching for something and are re-awakened so to speak through the CRS Game and the ritual of Fight Club.
@Russell_Oz: That sounds awesome! Do you have a link for it because I’d love to read it! You make a great connection there and I had never thought about it before. I really love Nicholas’ character, a man so removed from emotional connections in order to protect himself from the visions of his father’s death and the constant fear that one day he might understand his father’s reasons…
@MelBWrites: Ah, David Fincher… He is director I am coming full circle on. I started off hating him. For me, he personally destroyed the Alien franchise with that horrid, godawful mess he tried to pass off as Alien 3. How you gonna kill off Hicks and Newt? And then Ripley?!!! Blasphemer!! And no, I don’t want to hear how he tries to distance himself from that movie, the rewrites the studio wanted and blah, blah, blah. He did it and he should own it. Okay, off my soapbox. LOL
I really liked The Game, but I did not see it until long after Se7en, Fight Club, though, the two films that made me like Fincher. The Game was a happenstance rental one night and I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it had a stellar cast and the story was clever, sinister and bold. You can never go wrong with Penn and Douglas.
Is this your fave Fincher film, Russ? Anyone else? Mine is Zodiac. It scares the living hell out of me, especially the lake attack scene. I cannot sleep after I’ve seen it.
@Russell_Oz: Ah Mel, it’s not a full discussion until someone rants I do hear you about Alien 3 and I have only ever watched it the once and hated it but maybe it might be time to give it another watch, simply from the Fincher perspective and see if it makes any difference to my initial thoughts.
I hear you loud and clear and agree with you that both Se7en and Fight Club made me a David Fincher fan, and also it cemented for me that Brad Pitt can actually act and is impressive on the big screen, before these movies I only liked one other Brad Pitt film and that was Kalifornia. I too, did the video thing for The Game and was really impressed, perhaps it was due to lowered expectations however I’ve still thought the same thing in the numerous viewings since.
It is too hard to name a favourite David Fincher film but I have a few that I rate more than the others and here they are in no particular order; The Game, Se7en, Fight Club, Panic Room, and The Social Network.
@Wayneley: Oh how I adore Michael Douglas and his work on Fincher’s THE GAME – its a white knuckle ride, one of the finest modern day psychological thrillers I have seen.
Howard Shore’s creepy score adds to the suspense, it’s one of the movies great attributes, Fincher’s The Game feels Hitchcock like – full of unrelenting set pieces with a great sucker punch at the end.
Michael Douglas and Deborah Kara Unger are fantastic in The Game – Nicholas locked in the taxi is one of my favorite scenes, and the beautifully shot flashbacks of when Nicholas (Douglas) was a child are terrific.
As Fincher movies go this is right up there with Fight Club and Se7en it’s got the lot!
@Russell_Oz: Oh man that scene in the taxi is just intense! Everytime I watch it and see Nicholas figure out that he needs the winch to unwind the window I think I hold my breath! I think to myself “I would never figure that out” and then I love the story even more because you then realise just how much psychological testing they did to fully understand his thought patterns!
I agree with you on The Game holding up when compared to Fight Club and Se7en!!!
@SosMyWife: Well I’ll stand by my original stance, I liked Alien 3, it was certainly superior to the god awful 4 and everything that has come since.
@MelBWrites: @sosmywife Well, we shall agree to disagree. It was superior to Alien 4 and these two films are why there has been nothing until now. Prometheus and the return of Ridley Scott, I was crying with joy when I heard he was coming back to the world of Alien.
@Russell_Oz: LOL!! Now how did I know that you two would be at loggerheads over Alien 3 Oh wait, I know…because I’ve had this conversation with you both before…do I sense a gladiatorial Alien 3-off?!?
@SosMyWife: The Game is one of those rare films that you just cannot pin down anytime during it’s running to where it’s going. I know thats the point as we are placed in Douglas’ shoes as we bounce from one scene to another but it’s just a fantistic ride and Michael Douglas plays the fish out of water character better than anyone. I agree completely with you Russ I wish I could go back and see it again for the first time, the hugely under rated Arlington Road is another than can never have the same impact after the ending is known.
On the subject of the ending (spolier alert) in The Game has bothered me for years and after several viewings and ponderings it finally dawned on me why. Yes it’s incredible, possibly one of the most amazing reveals in movie history but it’s Douglas’ reaction, it’s not natural enough for me. Here is this guy who has gone through absolute hell climaxing in killing his brother and faced with the reality he is ok with it? Being a Fincher fan, I actually liked Alien 3, a better, more realisitc end would for himto have killed himself and then us as the audience see the reveal as the guests look down in horror at what they have done. But hey, thats just me.
This aside The Game is an absolute classic and is one of those movies that works because the mid ninties. You couldn’t make it now with the advent of social media and the saturation of the Internet, remember back then the net was still fairly new to the majority and still at dial-up speed, you just wouldn’t be able to keep a concept like The Game a secret long enough.
@Russell_Oz: Oh Matt you make a GREAT point, I LOVED Arlington Road!!! That was another absolutely sensational film which I loved from beginning to end and I wish I could also go back in time and watch it again for the first time. I think I actually watched it at the drive-in, probably the last time I ever went to one…
It’s an interesting point you raise about Douglas’s reaction to shooting his brother but I don’t ever recall it bothering me. I feel that since he didn’t know that Conrad was on the other side of the door and shot at whatever was about to come out on to the roof that it was a choice to kill his brother but the outcome that was needed to get him not only to step on the ledge but take that final step off it.
That ending gets me every time!
@WiderScreenings: It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but it remains my favourite Fincher film – 7 and Zodiac not withstanding. I like it’s allegorical component, its sense of fatalism and midlife re-discovery, of the thrill and invigoration of the loss of control of circumstance. It has a Kafka-esque sense of lives manipulated and a convoluted, psychedelic plot that toys with one’s perception of a stable “reality”. In that sense, as it constant re-defines “reality” and character relationships, it draws attention to ideas of artifice, manipulation and consturction: in that its almost deconstructivist in subtext, being about film itself – Fincher exposing the art of screen manipulation. I find it his most meta-filmic and self-conscious film. Though, having written a book for McFarland on serial killer films, I still enjoy 7 and Zodiac, though think the Game has more to think about for cineastes.
@Russell_Oz: Thanks so much for the in-depth analysis of The Game @WiderScreenings, I really like the idea of re-discovering the loss of control element. Nicholas was so far removed from anything even remotely resembling a human emotion at the beginning of the film and then get to a point where it all comes together on the roof top, it’s mind-blowing!
@Movies_In_Focus: The Game is possibly David Fincher’s finest movie (or at least a close second to Zodiac) and it is a pity that it is sandwiched between Se7en and Fight Club. It has become something of a forgotten gem, seen merely as an “in-between” movie for the director, sandwiched between two Brad Pitt vehicles. In fact, The Game grossed more at the box office than Fight Club – $48 million compared to $37 million domestically and $109 million compared to $100 million globally.
Michael Douglas is superb as Nicholas Van Orton, doing what he does best-white middle-aged angst. It’s great to see his character unravel and become more desperate as the film progresses, unsure of what is going on, or who to trust.
The sinister score by Howard Shore adds a level of eeriness to the proceedings and Fincher continues to push Douglas’ Van Orton (and the audience) to the limit through-out the film, ratcheting-up the tension until the climax.
Fincher also manages to throw in some nice visual flourishes, including flashbacks (in aged-film stock), the neon graffiti in Van Orten’s home and the prying –eyed clown, making it much more than a conventional thriller.
If you like Fincher, then you’ll love The Game.
@Russell_Oz: Thanks for joining in the discussion and leaving the great comment @movies_in_focus!
I had no idea that The Game actually grossed more at the Box Office than Fight Club, I don’t think anyone could count that as an “in-between movie” based on those numbers. I wonder if the numbers were as a result of a Michael Douglas drawcard at the time rather than today being seen as a David Fincher film…
I agree that one of the best parts of the film is watching Nicholas Van Orton unravel to the point of mentally breaking. He’s a complete opposite to where he started from at the beginning of the film which is why I think the character elicits empathy from the audience because he’s just been through so damn much!
Love the aged look of the flashbacks!!
@Wayneley: It would have been more fitting if Nicholas had killed his brother – then seeing the balloons, champagne corking and party folk stood there mouths open * surprise! * AND then the final credits – but Fincher had another take on it – it’s hard to say at ones reaction but I guess your right most of us would not react favourably to Conrad’s actions
ZODIAC was based on true events and the fact that the killer has never been aprehended is possibly the biggest problem with Fincher’s movie – just like the original case back in the day the movie was overlong and tiresome – Fincher could not close the movie because like in real life there has never been a resolution – the acting by Downey Jnr and Mark Ruffalo was far better in the recent Avengers flick and Jake Gyllenhaal playing the rather obsessed Robert Graysmith made me hope the killer had take his ass next BUT that’s my opinions and the beauty of the movies is that we all see things differently – be boring if we were all the same.
I will agree that DAVID FINCHER captures the mood of the time in all his movies – he’s a master – he has great eye for detail
@InTheFrame1: I saw this years ago, loved it, bought it, traded in the DVD because Criterion was supposed to be doing the Blu-ray, and now I don’t have a copy. I’m borrowing it from a friend on Thursday so I’ll add my comments after I see it again.
@Russell_Oz: Looking forward to hearing your thoughts, Steve
@CriminalMovies: I loved the ending and bought it completely. Although if the game had stopped short of him killing his brother, then I wouldn’t have bought it. He was very literally at a point where his life for all intents and purposes was over. To have it all be a game, and have a second chance, why it had to be an unbelievable gift. Perhaps its only my personal history that makes me over-relate, but in my experience when you have a parent who commits suicide it can become a defining and overshadowing factor in your life. The character had reached the end, and realized (perhaps the only way he could realize it) that he didn’t want it to be over. It’s kind of a twisted happy ending but I thought it was amazingly effective (and unexpected)
@Russell_Oz: I agree with your comment, Brent! i don’t think I would have bought it has Nicholas not killed his brother but I am so glad that they didn’t have him kill his brother afterwards. I think how it stands works really well and I would struggle with having any other ending, but then again that is just personal preference
@Wayneley: MUST say once again it’s a pleasure to read such comments about Movies that we love – the discussions here at 1:37 are brilliant from true movie fans!
Originally back in the early 90′s THE GAME was to star Twin Peaks actor Kyle MacLachlan (thank god that didn’t happen) could anyone else have played the part of Nicholas?
Bridget Fonda was also down to play Christine could that have worked? (I’m doubtful)
Personally I think Fincher nailed the cast but I guess it’s easy to say that now!
@MelBWrites: LMAO White middle-aged angst indeed! Mr. Douglas certainly has a way with showing us how white middle-aged men fall apart. I loved Falling Down. D-Fens Foster is one of my favorite Michael Douglas characters and performances.
You know Fincher intended to make The Game before Se7en but Brad Pitt became available and well, in the mid to late 90′s Mr. Pitt was considerably more popular and valuable than Penn or Douglas. I think what I find the most disturbing about the Game is Nicholas’ reaction when it’s over. Hell to the no would I react like that. Put me through that shit? I will put you through a window damn myself. I would have killed my brother for real. But, then again Nicholas is a rich dude completely detached from his own existence. You know, I would seriously love to see The Donald or Mitt Romney in something like The Game, only we get to watch on TV ala The Hunger Games. LOL
And I am up for an Alien 3 battle royal.
@Wayneley: I think Nicholas reaction at the end of the movie was one of relief – maybe realising that he had been taught some valuable lessons, also one that he had not turned into his father & that he had regained his brother?
Throwing my hammer into the Alien3 discussion – I hated the movie on first watch, but I think like most after several (actually 100 watches) lol it’s a really grower – granted it’s no Alien or Aliens but like a bottle of wine it ages well.
Michael Douglas is one of my favorite actors and his performances in the 80s and 90s have made him a movie legend in my eyes – my favorite Douglas movie (ALIEN Connection coming up) is the wonderful BLACK RAIN helmed by Ridley Scott – such an underrated movie.
I’m also very surprised for the love of Fincher’s ZODIAC in my opinion one of the worst Fincher movies – dreary and extremely boring – I have watched it three times trying to convince myself otherwise but NOPE just poor in my humble opinion
@MelBWrites: Black Rain is most definitely an awesome film with another amazing performance by Douglas. As for that relief at the end of the game? No way. No normal human being would react that way, that pulled me right out of the movie.
I have refused to ever see Alien 3 again after I gave it a second watch way back when, so I could not tell you whether it aged well. LOL
Part of Zodiac’s appeal is that it follows true events. I think Fincher perfectly captured the atmosphere of the time and God knows he captured the tension and disturbing elements of the killer’s crimes. That lake attack is one of the most horrifying scenes on film for me. Gyllenhaal, Ruffalo and RDJ also turn in stellar performances.
@Russell_Oz: In case it wasn’t abundantly clear before, I think that @Wayneley and @MelBWrites are even MORE awesome than first realised because of their mutual love for BLACK RAIN which is one of my favourite films of ALL TIME!! There is not a part of it that I don’t love! Now before you think that this is going off topic, I also rate FALLING DOWN as a massive favourite of mine too! It speaks to me on a level that I never thought possible! So Mr Douglas can definitely white-collar angst and maybe that is part of the appeal to me, I think he’s a tremendous actor!
I am interested by @Wayneley’s point, could anyone else play the roles in The Game?!? Now I can only really see Michael Douglas in the role however if they recast it, I would love to see Don Cheadle give it a shot. I think he’s a great actor and I can’t recall him ever playing a character like Nicholas Van Orton in the past and would love to see what he could do with it. As for the Conrad character…not entirely sure at the moment…anyone have an idea?
@Wayneley: @Russell_Oz you make an interesting casting call – Don Cheadle he’s a fine actor loved him in last year’s “The Guard” and 2008′s “Traitor” he could play Nicholas no doubt!
@CriminalMovies: Nice to see all the other Douglas roles mentioned. Black Rain was awesome. I’m itching to watch it again now. Of course, Falling Down was brilliant too. Then there’s “Traffic,” “The Wonder Boys,” ‘The Ghost and the Darkness” The guy’s got some major range! Just so everybody knows “The Game” is on Netflix Instant, so I’ll likely give it another watch this weekend. I could see Don Cheadle doing it. he’s certainly a fine actor.
@InTheFrame1: I’m watching it right now.
@InTheFrame1: So I finally got the chance to see The Game again. It had been years and I was still living in England at the time. I’m surprised that I remembered so much.
I like Michael Douglas and his character here was arrogant and powerful like Gordon Gekko. I assume that performance made him the obvious choice to play Van Orton.
Knowing the ending definitely changed the way I watched the movie this time around. I noticed a lot more of the techniques that CRS used to get the information they needed.
My favorite Michael Douglas film may well be Falling Down, although I like this and Wall Street a lot too. Those other two made my 100 movies series.
As for Fincher, I like most of his stuff. This works for me more than Benjamin Button or The Social Network, even if they are technically better. I love Se7en, Fight Club and Zodiac.
If it were cast today, I could easily see Liam Neeson in the Van Orton role. He even had a similar experience in Unknown when he was confused about who he could trust. Both movies have the star falling into water while trapped in a car. As for Conrad, maybe Clive Owen could play him?
I enjoyed seeing The Game once again and will be buying it if it ever gets a decent Blu-ray release. I borrowed the UK import and it has terrible picture quality.
@Russell_Oz: I’m so glad that you decided to give The Game another watch, Steve! I’m even happier that once you saw it you decided to share your opinion here with us
I agree that watching it again after knowing how the film ends definitely makes for a different perspective, especially on how CRS get the game going! One of my favourite scenes is the clown and the lead up to when Van Orton discovers the camera!
I was stoked to read that Falling Down made your Top 100 films, it’s definitely one of my all time favourites!!
Oh and great call on Liam Neeson too!