The game is a 1997 film directed by the capable David Fincher with Michael Douglas as the protagonist (who gave us an exceptional performance three years before in Falling Down by J. Schumacher). I hadn’t seen this movie for almost twenty years, I re-watched it yesterday and… no, I didn’t like it. And I will be brief, because it would be useless to talk too much about it!
With Fincher behind the camera, The game cannot be a badly-done movie, even if the choice of avoiding lighting the sets tired me a bit: many scenes are practically pitch black! Also the idea behind the movie is a brave one: it’s a thriller which can be read as a modern crossover between The wonderful wizard of Oz by Frank Baum and Dickens’s A Christmas carol. Well, perhaps it was too brave!
Everyone knows the plot, so I will summarize it here with plenty of spoilers. The brother of the rich and devoid of feelings Michael Douglas (played by Sean Penn) gives him as a birthday present a game experience. During the course of this game it seems that the organizing company tries to steal all his money and at a certain point even tries to kill him. In order to defend himself, Michael Douglas arrives on the verge of a nervous breakdown, makes a mistake and kills Sean Penn, and eventually commits suicide by throwing himself from a roof. Except that, ta-diaàààn, it was all a joke! The bullets weren’t real, the money wasn’t stolen, and there was a huge mattress waiting for him under the roof to save him and throw him a surprise birthday party! And thank goodness he threw himself exactly above that mattress: two meters to the right and he would have died horribly in the middle of that same party! And here is the problem of the film: it is not credible. The ending explaining that everything that happened was planned is based on a series of absurd coincidences that are not at all realistic. And by the way: who had the idea of celebrating someone’s birthday by pushing him towards suicide? Do you expect him to be willing to celebrate his birthday immediately after thinking that he didn’t want to live anymore???
No, I’m sorry but this movie doesn’t work. Despite the skills of the actors, despite the good director, despite the good soundtrack… all the tension built in the first hour and a half collapses like a house of cards with the nonsensical ending. And why is that? I believe that this crazy choice is motivated by the historical period. The second half of the Nineties started in 1995 with Se7en (by Fincher himself) and Bryan Singer’s The usual suspects: somehow Fincher felt obliged to shock the audience with a surprise ending. Unfortunately, in The game the ending is the worst part of the movie! Ciao!