The Game

Critics Consensus

The ending could use a little work but this is otherwise another sterling example of David Fincher's iron grip on atmosphere and storytelling.

74%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 58

84%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 141,820

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Movie Info

Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is a successful banker who keeps mostly to himself. When his estranged brother Conrad (Sean Penn) returns on his birthday with an odd gift -- participation in a personalized, real-life game -- Nicholas reluctantly accepts. Initially harmless, the game grows increasingly personal, and Orton begins to fear for his life as he eludes agents from the mysterious game's organizers. With no one left to trust and his money gone, Orton must find answers for himself.

Cast & Crew

Michael Douglas
Nicholas Van Orton
Sean Penn
Conrad Van Orton
James Rebhorn
Jim Feingold
Peter Donat
Samuel Sutherland
Ceán Chaffin
Producer
Jonathan Mostow
Executive Producer
Michael Ferris
Screenwriter
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News & Interviews for The Game

Critic Reviews for The Game

All Critics (58) | Top Critics (16) | Fresh (43) | Rotten (15)

  • The more we invest in Nicholas' bank of experiences, the more we display our willing complicity with, even subservience to, a system that lets cocooned elites merely play games (on an urban, even international scale)

    July 27, 2020 | Full Review…
  • The rational side of my brain can pick this movie apart until all that's left is incoherent threads. The movie-mad side, happy to lose control, had a hell of a good time.

    February 28, 2018 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Newsweek
    Top Critic
  • This 1997 thriller is fairly entertaining nonsense if all you're looking for is 128 minutes of diversion. But if you'd like something more from David Fincher, the director of Seven, don't get your hopes up.

    October 4, 2011 | Full Review…
  • Regardless of how far one chooses to buy into The Game -- and the ending ambiguously suggests that it could go on and on -- there is no doubt as to Fincher's staggering expertise as a director and his almost clinical sense of precision.

    March 26, 2009

    Todd McCarthy

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • The film's 'message' about complacency transformed by chaos and uncertainty is hackneyed...

    February 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Quote not available.

    July 12, 2002 | Rating: 2.5/4
    Globe and Mail
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Game

  • Aug 07, 2018
    A sensational thriller that cannot stand up to ANY amount of scrutiny whatsoever. If you are willing to suspend your reason, and simply enjoy the atmosphere and acting, this is a top-flight mystery with some fantastic scenes. Fincher is a great director, and this is one of my favorite Fincher movies. I enjoy this movie much more than Seven. I don't like the ending of either movie, but this movie has originality and some of the best atmosphere and imagery in movies. If you don't judge it, or raise any of the MANY questions about how this "game" could have gone wrong in 10,000 ways, you can appreciate where they were going with this movie. I wish there were more like it. For me, it's what movies are about.
    Mark H Super Reviewer
  • Aug 15, 2013
    A forgotten Fincher gem to be sure, not exactly an original idea but superbly well made and directed by the cult creator. The plot has been seen before but it works well by playing on the paranoia and scares of everyday life, things that could go wrong if our lives fell apart before our eyes. The fear of losing everything, nowhere to turn, no one to trust, something that all working people can relate to. Michael Douglas plays 'Nick Van Orton', a very rich Scrooge-like character who cares little for anyone, lives like a king whilst playing the investment banker game. So yeah this could be 'Gordon Gecko' as an older man I guess, its very familiar. Upon receiving a gift card type present from his brother for a 'game' company Orton proceeds ahead with the offer and discovers himself in a world of hurt. The tension builds at a slow pace as small things start to happen to Orton, nothing much at first but slowly the situation gets worse and worse. It really is quite creepy and uncomfortable to watch as his job is threatened, his home and even the people he knows, the walls come crashing down around him and he's virtually powerless to stop it. I guess you could say the film is bordering on identity theft of the highest order, with the exception that the main character agreed to everything. That's the itchy fact that sits on your mind the whole time, he agreed to it!! almost like a blackmail fetish. Sure he knew nothing about the company and what was on offer but the trust factor of his brother giving him the gift really adds to the mystery of it all. But on the flip side this mystery is also slightly damning really. If you really think about it, would anyone really accept what this unknown company offers in the film? would you really go along with all those medical tests and mental tests that last all day and at the end of it sign your life away without a clue what will happen?! I bloody wouldn't!. This is the intrigue (or start of it) but also the main problem with the plot, no one would do that, especially someone like Van Orton with tonnes of money and a grand reputation to lose. Even if you did agree to this bizarre mystery game, would this company really go as far as they do in the film?. Would a real company really be able to take everything away from you including your property, car, job, friends and family so easily?. Leaving you almost homeless with seemingly everybody against you, people double crossing you, even going as far as to try and kill you!!!, taking you to the point of near break down, suicide or murder...just for a game??...that's a gift!!. I mean yeah sure the concept for the movie is thrilling but if you step back and look at it its totally insane really. Who could say Van Orton wouldn't blow his brains out very early on or actually kill someone?, on the other hand surely he could easily get around the game by simply going to his building that he owns. The mystery company has seemingly gotten to people, his property and his money but surely they wouldn't be able to get everyone in his own building in on the trick. He could of just walked in there at anytime, his name is on the entrance for pete's sake! did he forget he owned that building? it wouldn't have disappeared. I must confess to not liking the ending either, it twists more than a helter skelter but instead of leaving you in awe it leaves you thinking Fincher went one step too far. It also feels way too convenient, as if they knew Orton would do what he did, just seems too impossible to predict. Great colour palette by Fincher too I might add. Rich with dark tones, moody and dull, yet at times kinda faded or washed out, a bit noir-ish and every scene is full of detail. Some of the best visuals are seen when Douglas is relaxing in his luxurious wood panel study, very nice and probably not too far off Douglas' real home decor. Douglas is also perfect as Orton (he knows how to play slimeballs), the cool, slick, cold business man who is reduced to a quivering wreck with anxiety overload. You can feel the sweat droplets running down your brow as you observe Douglas going through his nightmare, one of his best performances. Despite the over the top nature of the plot the film is a great thriller and succeeds in creating discomfort during the whole run time.
    Phil H Super Reviewer
  • Jun 29, 2013
    With David Fincher at the helm, of course "The Game" is dark, gritty, and engaging. The dark streets and even darker characters scream Fincher's directing style and delivers a different take on the suspense thriller. Michael Douglas takes control of his spiraling character, Nicholas Van Orton, like no one else can, bringing shades of his Oscar winning performance of Gordon Gekko to a darker and more suspenseful level. What "The Game" lacks in cohesion and believability, it makes up for in immersing plot developments and twisting logic. The bright spot of Fincher's third film is the convoluted nature of all the elements, creating a world that not even the audience is sure what's real and what's not, until the bitter end. We're told from the start that this will all be a game, but as we start cycling through personal hits and conspiracy theories, we are not so sure anymore. Everyone has their part to play and they play it wonderfully, especially Sean Penn and Deborah Kara Unger, who both spin a web of false truths and unexpected turns, with hints of "Vanilla Sky" and "The Truman Show" all mixed into one. Fincher knows his strengths and weaknesses and in doing so, develops a strong feature film, matching the style of his previous work, but breaking the boundaries of the genres he chooses to explore.
    Christopher H Super Reviewer
  • Mar 09, 2013
    An entertaining thriller filled of twists and turns but ultimately fails, because even on it's implausability (which I don't mind), it doesn't feel very plausable and doesn't know very well where to turn and what tone to adopt.
    Francisco G Super Reviewer

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