Jul 27, 2010

Underrated: The Game vs. 12 Angry Men

When I think of The Game I usually forget that it was directed by David Fincher. If this movie is underrated, it might have something to do with its being nestled right in between the two most notable Fincher films, Se7en and Fight Club. Maybe it doesn't quite qualify as 'underrated.' Many people like this movie a great deal. However, I take issue with its mere 7.7 rating on imdb. Consider this nuttiness: 12 Angry Men (the actual most boring movie ever made) makes it into the top ten of the 250 list with its score of 8.8. 12 Angry Men was based on a play (usually a bad thing). The action takes place entirely in one room and involves twelve male (go figure) jurors discussing the probability that the defendant is guilty. Not only is there very little action, there is very little moving at all. I suppose at the time it was a good racial commentary and the acting was considered amazing, but mightn't To Kill A Mocking Bird (a respectable #54) be said to fulfill these criteria even more effectively, whilst also entertaining us? I just can't see how anyone watching 12 Angry Men by today's standards can rank this movie higher than the other 241 movies (others of which annoy me too) on the imdb top 250.

I am not trying to contend that The Game deserves the number 9 (as of this writing) slot in 12 Angry Men's place, but I do think it deserves our consideration.

Fincher does the thing he does best: convinces us to trust the narrative and then yanks us up side down by the ankles. Even though we are repeatedly betrayed, we go along and believe we are in control. To a certain extent, I see this movie as a commentary on the power the storyteller holds over the viewer/listener. Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is a controlled, shrewd, business man. He is the master of his own destiny, for we learn, despite some really dark stuff in his childhood, he has made a name for himself and excelled at his profession. His routines begin to topple when, at his troubled brother's (Sean Penn) urging, he enlists in a "game" designed for bored rich people to mess with their lives and shake things up. Soon, he has no idea which parts of his life are "the game" and which are under his control. Some freaky stuff happens, he meets a nice girl, he has a shower in his office (so we know he's doing all right - that part always cracked me up), some other crap happens with his brother, and the lines between reality and fiction are blurred. Until the final moment, it is impossible for Nicholas to bring the situation back under his grasp. He is helplessly along for the ride, even though he tries to stop and get out many times, just as the viewer is at the mercy of the storyteller.

Another thing I really like: even though it is dark and suspenseful, there is a justifiable happy ending. It is tried and true way for a storyteller to leave the audience feeling satisfied after spending an hour and a half messing with their brains, and in this film it is done well. 

Good acting, good story, some tense moments with a nice payoff at the end. If nothing else, it is entertaining, and that's more than 12 Angry Men can brag.

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