The Game (film)

From Academic Kids

The Game tells the story of a wealthy businessman who is gifted with prepaid access to a strange game. The game integrates in strange ways with his life. As the lines between the businessman's real life and the game become more and more uncertain there are hints of a larger conspiracy.

The game in the movie can be viewed as sort of Alternate Reality Game with a large Live action role-playing game component. Participants in real life versions of alternate reality games and live action role-playing games find the movie interesting and a source of inspiration for this reason.



Plot Summary

The Game is, in essence, a redemption fable which explores the theme of appearance-vs-reality. In style, it is strongly reminiscent of the best episodes of The Twilight Zone. The main character, 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 and is estranged from his wife and daughter.

On Nicholas' forty-eighth birthday, his younger brother Conrad (Sean Penn) presents him with an unusual gift -- a prepaid game offered by a company called Consumer Recreation Services -- promising that it will change Nicholas' life. 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 taking a full day test and physical, 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 focusses on a key moment of Nicholas' life when, as a child, he witnessed his father committing suicide by leaping off a tall building; significantly Nicholas' father took his life on his 48th birthday -- the same age 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. Repeated attempts are made on his life, and while he is disoriented, the payroll accounts he controls have been drained. Alienated from his friends and his trusted lawyer, Nicholas soon becomes desperate, so he retrieves a hidden hand-gun from his home, and heads directly into the recently-moved offices of the game company, where he takes one of the staff hostage, demanding answers.

The employee at first appears surprised by the gun, telling Nicholas that the game company thought they had replaced any real firearms Nicholas could access with fakes. She at first assists him in escaping from the clutches of the CRS operatives, but after a series of narrow escapes, Nicholas is captured, transported to Mexico and subjected to a terrifying premature burial.

The movie comes to a climax on the roof of the game company's skyscraper. A jumpy Nicholas again demands answers. A door opens, surprising Nicholas and he fires without looking, only to reveal that he has shot his brother holding a bottle of wine dressed for his birthday celebration. Stricken with remorse, Nicholas leaps off the skyscraper and crashes through a glass ceiling, but he lands safely in an airbag. There he finds his family and friends awaiting his arrival and the game is revealed to have just been a game. The accounts have not been drained, the gun was replaced with one firing blanks, his brother is alive.

A real life version of this game called Mr Gamer exists.


The movie was filmed primarily in San Francisco, including Hotel Nikko and the Filoli Gardens and House (Redwood City). The use of San Francisco as the primary locale was clearly a deliberate choice by Fincher; the city was of great significance in Michael Douglas' own career -- he rose to fame as the co-star (with Karl Malden) of the popular 1970s police series The Streets of San Francisco.

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