For some, a birthday is a celebration; despite his wealth and powerful position as an investment banker, for Nicholas Van Orton it is emblematic of the emptiness of his life: divorced and living alone in the family mansion since the death of his mother with only the servants for company, at forty eight he has now reached the age his own father was when he threw himself from the roof of that same house.
Nicholas a witness to his father’s suicide, albeit from a distance, that image has haunted his life, and he has become cold; perhaps unsurprisingly, he also dislikes surprises, yet despite this his younger brother Conrad, the black sheep of the Van Orton family recently returned from Europe, has arranged exactly that, an application to “the game” run by the obscurely named Consumer Recreation Services.
What is the game? “Figuring out the object of the game is the object of the game” Nicholas is told, but despite exhaustive mental and physical tests for which he would not normally have the patience, his time being valuable, Nicholas is rejected by CRS with only a cursory apology, returning home to another night alone to find on his doorstep a clown dummy with a key in its mouth. And so the game begins…
The third feature from former music video director David Fincher following Alien 3 and Seven, The Game was originally released in 1997 and continued his streak of unorthodox thrillers combined with absolute technical precision creating a flawless whole of paranoia and misdirection, themes which would continue in Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac and Gone Girl.
Released on Blu-ray as a 2K restoration from the original negative supervised and approved by Fincher and cinematographer Harris Savides, The Game is best enjoyed for the first time going in blind, where with little conventional narrative structure every twist arrives without foreshadowing, while repeat viewings reveal the pointers and connections hidden in plain sight, hindsight making it easier to spot who is a player and who a bystander.
Written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris, in the accompanying interview Brancato recalls the interminable rounds of rewrites as The Game was passed around studios as a vehicle for different stars including Kiefer Sutherland and Jodie Foster, a process which perhaps served to bring out the best elements in each iteration, distilled into the optimal configuration of the final production.
A film about family starring Ant-Man and the Wasp‘s Michael Douglas as Nicholas and This Must Be the Place‘s Sean Penn as Conrad, both are from families with a noted screen history though perhaps only Douglas’ could be described as a dynasty, their onscreen relationship frosty yet both behaving as adults in their disagreements, maintaining the public appearance expected of a society family, yet Conrad carries weight with Nicholas, or else why would he have pursued the application?
Presented in both the Cinemascope and full frame versions along with a helpful illustrated text feature on how The Game was shot and composed for both the cinema and the home video market, the new edition also features a hugely knowledgeable commentary by critic Nick Pinkerton, a video essay on some of the recurring background characters, an archive interview with Douglas and a second disc of additional features.