Director: David Fincher
Writer: John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris
Stars: Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, Deborah Kara Unger, James Rebhorn
Runtime: 129 min
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Released: 12 Sep 1997
Synopsis: Nicholas Van Orton (Douglas) is a successful businessman, but his success has come at the cost of his family life. When the movie opens, he is divorced, distant from his caring ex-wife and cold toward his only living relative, his kid brother, Conrad (Penn). Nicholas goes about life in a cold, detached manner and seems incapable of expressing emotion or caring for anyone outside of himself.
On Nicholas’s 48th birthday, Conrad presents him with an unusual gift, a game offered by a company called Consumer Recreation Services, promising that it will change Nicholas’ life. (The idea of Consumer Recreation Services seems to be borrowed directly from the G.K. Chesterton story “The Tremendous Adventures of Major Brown”). The nature of the game is unclear at first, but it appears to be a sort of live action role-playing game that integrates directly into the player’s real life. After a full day of tests and a physical examination, Nicholas is informed that the game company cannot serve him. However, Nicholas soon discovers that this is false and the game has begun. The game focuses on a key moment of Nicholas’ life when, as a child, he witnessed his father committing suicide by leaping off their family home, the same home Nicholas lives in. Significantly, Nicholas’ father took his life on his 48th birthday, the same age as Nicholas is now.
As the movie progresses, evidence mounts that the game is actually an elaborate scheme, but each time Nicholas thinks he has uncovered the truth, he finds that a new layer of complexity has been revealed and that his previous assumptions were false. The Game quickly escalates into a no-holds-barred assault on everything Nicholas values, and his carefully ordered life and business empire rapidly disintegrate around him as The Game takes control. An employee of an upscale restaurant (Unger) at first assists him in escaping from the clutches of the CRS operatives, but after a series of narrow escapes and repeated attempts on his life, Nicholas is captured, transported to Mexico and subjected to a premature burial (albeit one he easily escapes from), all while having his bank accounts drained by the employee who was pretending to help him. The Game is now revealed to be an elaborate scam to relieve the power elite of their property and their lives.
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