The FILM IN WORDS Netflix Film of the Week: helping you navigate the filmic minefield of the nation’s favourite video streaming service.
Words: Brody Rossiter
TIME TO PLAY THE GAME
Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is a wealthy investment banker. He moves vast amounts of money from here to there for individuals who are as equally rich as him. He lives alone in a big, empty and beautiful mansion on the outskirts of San Francisco and makes a habit of pushing people away; his colleagues; his ex-wife; and his troubled younger brother Conrad – all struggle to penetrate the hardened, cynical shell of Mr Van Orton’s public persona.
Michael Douglas has undoubtedly exhibited a knack for portrayals of larger than life businessmen. Thanks to Oliver Stone and vast reserves of Brylcreem, the actor taught a generation of Wall Street professionals that “greed is good” and “breakfast is for wimps” in the unmistakable role of talismanic yuppie Gordon Gekko. Despite the obvious similarities (the sharp suits and ruthless plain-speaking nature) Van Orton is a much more internally frail and deeply troubled individual than alpha male Gekko.
Understandably, if you witnessed your millionaire mogul father fling himself from the roof of your childhood home to his gruesome and very public death, then you too would experience a dark night of the soul or two – or rather a lifetime’s worth. Fortunately Nicholas’ runt of the litter brother, Conrad (Sean Penn) is on hand to spice up the vapidity of modern life via a birthday invitation to play a very special and incredibly dangerous “game”. Serving up a frantic, deeply unnerving, and infamously chilling thriller plot (see above picture of life-size clown doll) The Game drops its lead protagonist into a reality bending test of wits in which only the fittest survive.
Despite a Criterion Collection release (a.k.a. DVD/Blu-Ray treasure for cinema lovers) and the directorial credit belonging to the auteur of 21st Century crime, mystery, and grime, The Game often manages to be overlooked by wider audiences – perhaps due to the fact that it is sandwiched between Se7en and Fight Club in David Fincher’s filmography. Luckily Netflix gifts you the opportunity to watch this captivating and grandiose collapse of one man’s identity and his struggle to not only recover his life as he knows it, but save his life full stop, in glorious HD whenever you wish. The Game may very well be the one Fincher film you are yet to experience, and as with Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac, and most recently The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, experience this lost classic in the Fincher library you will – every last nerve shredding frame right up until it’s game over.