David Fincher got a lot of attention as a director of music videos. His distinctive style was evident in hit videos for Madonna’s Express Yourself and Vogue, Michael Jackson’s Who Is It? and Aerosmith’s Janie’s Got a Gun. His first foray into feature filmmaking was Alien3, which got a lot of critical backlash, but is one of my all-time favorite films in the Alien franchise. He went on to make films like Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac, The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that cemented his name as one of Hollywood’s top directors. But his second film was The Game with Michael Douglas which has gone on to become quite the cult hit and is finally available on Blu-ray from the wonderful folks at Criterion.
Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is a wealthy San Francisco banker who has everything he could ever want in life, but is very alone. For his 48th birthday, his estranged brother Conrad (Sean Penn) gives him a gift card to a place called Consumer Recreation Services. But once Nicholas goes to CRS, things in his life take a strange turn. Suddenly it seems Nicholas is being hunted, his house vandalized, his every movement being watched. His entire reality starts to spin out of control. Nicholas must find out who is behind the strange occurrences and why they are happening to him.
Upon revisiting The Game, I was struck by just how good the film is and how overlooked it was upon original release. Even my own memory of it betrayed how good it was. The film has Fincher’s trademark darkness throughout, but also has Fincher’s signature photography that is utterly beautiful. He is certainly a master of dark images and it is fully on display in The Game. The pace is brisk and exciting, the performances are amazing across the board, and the story is unique and compelling. Douglas is at his very best here in a role that really required a sincere fish out of water approach. He literally seems gobsmacked by what is going on in his life and even his extraordinary amounts of money can’t seem to get him out of it. Also great are Penn as Nicholas’ elusive brother and Deborah Kara Unger as the woman Nicholas ends up on the run with. Dark, gritty, original, gripping and beautiful to look at, The Game is a lesser mentioned title in Fincher’s canon, but one that should be given a second look.
As usual with the phenomenal work they do over at Criterion, The Game is a stunner. The restoration was meticulous and it shows in every frame. The detail and clarity are astounding, especially with The Game being such a dark film, but the darkness never takes away from the detail or clarity at all. Colors are deep and rich and the soundtrack is nicely immersive with crystal clear dialogue. This is a stunning transfer of a very underappreciated film. Highly recommended.