Monday, July 13, 2009

A Scene Of Note From The Game

I'm a big fan of David Fincher's work. I write that knowing full well that I hold only a few of his films in high regard. Yes, I like Seven. And yes I like Fight Club very much. But truth to tell, I don't think those films will go down in my history book as timeless. As the years go by, my love for them whithers. Like my Green Machine from my youth. No one loved that thing more than me, but now I'm older and it doesn't hold the place in my heart it once did. Maybe that means I'm evolving. Maybe it means I'm maturing. Maybe it means I'm way too big to still ride it. Maybe it means I'm growing into a stodgy old fart. I don't know.

When I say that I'm a big fan of David Fincher's work, I say that because of his innovation. Because of his fearlessness. Because of his ability to make his films create a visceral reaction. No doubt he is very talented, I just don't know that he is working on all cylinders. And I'm not sure that I ever want him to. What makes Fincher great is that he is constantly exploring. Trying different things. Even his failures are interesting.

When I say that I'm a big fan of David Fincher's work, two films come to mind. Zodiac, which I think is his most mature work. And The Game, which is just wonderful fun. And of those two, the film that I keep going back to is The Game, his most overlooked work. I often revisit it, reliving the experience of Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas), wishing that I was new to it all once again. You can truly only experience the game once, but it's still a lot of fun playing it over and over.

The criticism I've heard of this film is its lack of believability. In reality, this could never happen and I would say one of Fincher's talents is in making the unbelievable, believable. But what's great about The Game is that Fincher makes you want to believe. To forgive things so you don't mess with the fantasy. Probably the hardest scene to swallow, for me at least, is the one where Nicholas goes and visits Christine (Deborah Unger) at her "apartment." When Nicholas discovers who Christine really is, CRS shows up and the bullets fly. Every time I see this scene, my brain battles with me. It says "No way this could happen." And my heart says "Maybe. Maybe it could." But my brain says "did they already rig that apartment with small explosions to look like gunshots? Is that rocksalt they're shooting? Rubber bullets?" I try to justify it in my head and it never quite works for me.

The Game was on AMC last night and right before I fell asleep this scene of note played out. Again, I was struggling, trying to justify it logistically in my head. And then I noticed something I had never noticed before. A slip in the fantasy that maybe is the reason why I have such a problem with this scene. When CRS begins to infiltrate the apartment, they are shooting from the sidewalk into the windows. Nicholas and Christine leave for the backdoor. Then there is a quick cut where we see the CRS gunmen shoot out the front door. Huh? Up until this point, every bit of the game is played through the eyes of Nicholas. Everything he is experiencing is from his point of view. Except this one quick scene. And I wonder why Fincher showed it at all. Was it to make us doubt that CRS is really not about Consumer Recreations, but more of a terrorist group? Was it to show us that they were really using bullets, making us even more amazed that they pulled it all off? I don't know. But I don't think it works. And what's more, that simple shot hurts more than it helps.

Of course all this would be great fodder in the form of an extra on a Criterion edition of the DVD, which will probably never come to fruition. So I guess until then, this discussion (or lack thereof) will have to reside in the halls of Lazy Eye.

Thanks to Movie Screenshots and Movie Quiz for the screenshots and storyboards.


Kevin J. Olson said...

Great post. I like The Game for its silliness. I agree with you about Fincher always being interesting. I like what you say about his failures even being interesting. I have yet to see Benjamin Button, but judging from the reviews on the blogosphere that seems like it would be a candidate. Some of his interesting bad films in my opinion are Fight Club and Panic Room -- but especially his debut film, Alien 3, which Roger Ebert dubbed "the best looking bad movie of all time." Hehe.

Great stuff as always, and you've kind of whetted my appetite for another viewing of The Game (it's been at least 10 years for me).

Unknown said...

I really love this film as well and have been thinking about writing something about it for eons. To me, it feels like a feature-length TWILIGHT ZONE episode with Douglas' character being plunged into a waking nightmare that he desperately wants to escape from.

Kevin J. Olson said...


I like the Twilight Zone comparison. I don't quite understand the people who rail against this movie because of how "unrealistic" it is. I don't think the film was ever claiming to be based in reality. It's a film that takes place in a nightmare -- it's like asking for realism in A Nightmare on Elm Street film...

PIPER said...

Kevin and J.D.

Thanks for your comments. I often go back to the movie hoping to feel the same way when I first saw it. When Douglas finally finds out it was all part of the game, I was crying. Crying because I literally felt I had been put through the whole thing. And it was like some kind of graduation day for him.

But what I really like about this film is trying to convince myself that it could really be pulled off. That something like this really existed or could exist. That's what's fun about it. If I dismiss it as some unrealistic world, than anything could happen. But there are boundaries in this film.

I also find myself studying every frame, looking for any kind of tips that might suggest random extras are part of the game.

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

Added to my Netflix queue.

Would it surprise you to hear that my favorite Fincher piece is Panic Room?

PIPER said...

It surprises me more that you haven't seen The Game.

I liked Panic Room. Not my favorite, but it's good fun. The ending killed it for me.

Unknown said...


"But what I really like about this film is trying to convince myself that it could really be pulled off. That something like this really existed or could exist. That's what's fun about it. If I dismiss it as some unrealistic world, than anything could happen. But there are boundaries in this film."

Well, Fincher plays things so close to the vest, visually, that you can really look at the film in realistic terms, like this all could be happening and all the people that Douglas' character interacts with are in on it. The cafeteria scene where he meets all of the actors playing the people he has met certainly seems to confirm this. Or you could see it a nightmarish hell that Douglas is trying to get out of where maybe some of the people are in on it and some aren't. Either way, it is a film that invited repeat viewings.

PIPER said...


You're right. I realized after I spoke about the "reality" of the movie that I had written about the "fantasy" aspect a couple of times in my post. Like you said, either way it's a great movie.

RC said...

You're so right on the Game being overlooked --- I haven't thought about it for a long time, and when people mention David Fincher they rarely mention this film.

I'm not sure where Fincher stacks up over time --- that's a good question?

I hope people keep watching Zodiac. I realy enjoyed that film a great deal!

PIPER said...


I think Fincher will be an important part in the history of film, at least for the innovation he brought to film-making. The question is, will he be known as more.

You're right about Zodiac and I failed to give it the props it deserves, because it's a fantastic film. One that hasn't come close to the accolades it deserves. Honestly, it might be more overlooked then the game. How did a cast like this get completely snubbed when it came awards time?

brian said...

Zodiac is Fincher's masterpiece. Ten years from now, the world will say it is so.