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4.5 out of 5 stars
The Game (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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108 of 127 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
What happens when you are a powerful multi-millionaire and have everything you ever wanted? While you and I might think this situation is highly desirable, for Nicholas Van Orton, played by Michael Douglas, it is very boring. In fact, you might say that Nicholas is miserable. However, Nicholas' brother Conrad Van Orton, played by Sean Penn, has bought Nicholas a gift for his 48th birthday, an invitation to play "The Game."

From this point forward the movie drags for what seems forever. I was beginning to regret watching this movie. Looking back, though, I now know that this beginning helps us to more fully understand how boring and awful Nicholas's life is, and provides an excellent contrast with what happens later in the movie.

Nicholas is in a very upscale restaurant when a waitress (Deborah Unger as Christine) spills wine on his shirt. Christine is fired by the restaurant manager and leaves, very upset. Before you can say white rabbit, a waiter rushes by Nicholas' table and drops off a note that tells Nicholas to follow the girl. Prepare for the roller coaster ride.

Within moments Nicholas finds himself involved with an apparently dying man, then just as quickly he finds he is being chased by the police, and police dogs, and things just get worse and worse. The list of things to which Nicholas is subjected is too long to describe, and would leave you with no surprises.

Nicholas tries to figure out how to make all the action and events to which he is being subjected stop. Nicholas can't handle the loss of control. Further, the chaos of his experiences seems to follow no pattern or order. Eventually Nicholas gets back to where he thinks it all began for a showdown that left me surprised and amazed. You'll have to watch the end for yourself.

There are several lapses in credibility, but unless you are an obsessive control freak (sort of like Nicholas Van Orton, for instance) you'll likely consider the lapses minor. This movie ultimately is an intelligent thriller that relies on action only when necessary to heighten Nicholas' fears and to pull him into what seems like a deeply nefarious conspiracy. After watching, this movie became one of my favorites, and I've now seen it several times.

The most difficult part of this movie is the relatively slow first part. However, have patience; what you learn in the first part helps you to understand Nicholas and to be drawn more fully into his situation. Sympathy with Nicholas and his situation is highly desirable to fully appreciate the end of the movie. I was sympathetic, and enjoyed this movie. 5 stars for an intelligent thriller that relies on intelligent plot versus guns, fast cars and special effects.

Enjoy!
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2012
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
On its 15th anniversary, The Game has been given its best treatment ever by the good folks at The Criterion Collection - it's never looked or sounded better!

I missed this movie in the theaters in 1997 but saw it immediately upon its video release and it instantly became one of my favorite thrillers. Michael Douglas is spot-on as an emotionally detached, wealthy investment banker given an unusual birthday gift from his younger brother. I actually prefer this performance over the similar but more bombastic role of Gordon Gekko. As Nicholas Van Orton, Douglas gets to breathe a full range of emotion into his character and he really makes the most of it. Sean Penn is great as usual as Van Orton's unstable brother Connie and Deborah Kara Unger turns in a strong performance as a mystery woman who may or may not be on Van Orton's side.

Where to rank this among David Fincher's other great films is hard to say (it's my 2nd favorite) but I would say that it is the most overlooked. I don't know if that's because of the simplistic name of the film, how it was marketed or something else entirely but like The Shawshank Redemption, it seem seems to be one of those films that most people discovered far beyond its initial release. Having just watched it again, I was delighted to see that it had not aged a bit - something that cannot be said of other films of the 90s which are already showing their age.

As I said, the film has never looked better. It was never given very good treatment on video as it was (and that's being charitable) but this version hits it out of the park. The dark scenes that dominate the film are more clear than ever and Fincher's use of colored light has dramatic impact. Special features include 5 major set detail pieces exclusive to Criterion, trailer, teaser and audio commentary from all the principals throughout. It also includes an alternate ending that I'm thankful they didn't use. If you're a fan of this film, this Criterion release is essential.

Lastly, a little about the plot itself. There's not much that can be said without ruining the film's twists and turns but I cannot agree with the films few detractors who found it "too clever" or worse, those to whom it didn't make sense. Watch it again; it's pretty much all there within the scenes & the dialogue. Can you poke holes in parts of it? Of course you can, but I've yet to see a film where that is not the case - life itself has lapses of reason. What I like about The Game is that it does a more than adequate job of providing a tether to reality while it creates a mysterious world of its own - as long as you're willing to play along.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2000
Format: DVD
Once in a while you come across a great thriller. To accomplish this you have to have a great story line, superb acting and cinematography, a generous budget and an excellent styling consultant so that everything's just perfect. And The Game has all these aspects. A wealthy financier (Michael Douglas) who has apparently everything and is bored with life gets a surprise birthday gift from his brother (Sean Penn): the participation in a very interesting and intense game. It is one of these movies that is unpredictable for the most part with action scenes that will take your breath away. The ending is unique and an unpredictable surprise and it gives the movie the final edge to classify it as one of these rare top-rated thrillers.
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43 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
The Game was directed by Fight Club director David Fincher and in many ways it prepares the viewer for the twists and turns of Fight Club. Michael Douglas as control junky investment banker Nicholas Van Orton is given an invitation to "the game" by his younger brother Conrad (Sean Penn). Before Van Orton knows it the game has started and it takes him on journey where he is in the dark so to speak and he never really gets out of it until it is over. Other reviews have said that it has no sense of humor, this movie doesn't need one. it's mysterious and intellectual strength is more than enough to keep most people fixed to it. Others have said that the ending is anticlimactic. If one cannot appreciate the ending of this movie, they haven't been paying attention. If you want a movie that makes you think, this movie is for you. my friends and i started it sometime after midnight a couple years ago and we didn't sleep for an hour after it was done because it made us think that much. the movie buff will not be disappointed.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2001
Format: DVD
I saw this movie when it first came out. Upon first viewing, I enjoyed it for several qualities. Director David Fincher provides a really creepy, eerie atmosphere to the story. The cinematography has a dark, eerie look (as in Seven). The music (such as the tinkering piano) has a way of creeping up on you. Michael Douglas is terrific, as usual. Towards the 2nd half however, I started to lose interest. I found the story was just cranking on and on with no point. By the end, I was dissappointed with the payoff. I felt it didn't have to go on so long to explain it's point. I guess this is the reason it didn't perform so well at the box office. The 2nd time I watched this was a different story. Knowing in advance about the ending, I could pay more attention to the meaning of all of the scenes (I don't want to give too much away). The early flashbacks are there to tell you what kind of unhappy, selfish, lonely person Douglas is like. As the movie progresses, you begin to see him changing as he is going through the game. This is the whole point of the story, not what is really going on. By the time the payoff has come around, you are touched with what has occured. The viewer is not really supposed to be surprised at the end, but emotionally moved. What I really would like to see someday is a DVD with Fincher's director's commentary. This is such a complex movie where each scene needs to be explained. I hope David Fincher does that someday (like the new Seven DVD). One minor note: For those of you complaining about how far fetched the movie is, this movie is supposed to be unreal. I could not believe one minute of it, but Fincher makes it clear he doesn't want you to believe in it. The Game is part mystery, part fantasy (as in the Twilight Zone).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2004
Format: DVD
Nicholas Van Orton ( Michael Douglas) is an extremely wealthy San Francisco banker who owns everything he could possibly want. Unfortunately, he is also extremely lonely, because he has no one to share it with. Nicholas is turning 48, and his strange and eccentric brother Conrad ( Sean Penn)wants to give Nicholas the perfect gift for his birthday. Conrad gives him an invitation to a company called Consumer Recreation Services, that specializes in creating games that are designed specifically for the participant. Unable to resist, Nicholas decides to go through with it. However, soon after Nicholas signs up, very strange and horrible things start to happen to him, which leads Nicholas to believe that the game he is involved in, will have him playing for his life.
"The Game" is without a doubt one of the most thrilling and suspenseful films I have ever seen. I was literally drawn into the film from beginning to end. Nothing is what it seems in this film. The end is perhaps the film's best feature because it is completely unpredictable. There are so many twists and turns, that the movie may appear confusing at times. But if you are willing to give the concentration and patience that is needed, watching The Game can be a very rewarding experience. Michael Douglas is an amazing actor, and it shows in this film. You legitimately come to feel for his character, because of how well he portrays the character breaking down. Watching Michael Douglas's character lose control of his life is frightening and somewhat amusing as well. Sean Penn, Deborah Unger, and the rest of the cast all do a great job as well.
Overall, "The Game" is probably one of the best psychological thrillers ever made. The film is unpredictable and suspenseful from beginning to end, and the performances given from Michael Douglas and company could not have been better. My only advice with this film is that you be willing to pay attention and concentrate on what is going on. This is a film that you need to use your mind when watching.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2012
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
Was hesitant on getting this movie on blu ray. This great thriller is one of the better films by David Fincher (SEVEN wins the best) and Criterion has treated us to the best this dark movie has ever looked! This was always a hard film to transfer to home video and I was scared to risk getting another retread transfer. The first being the awesome Laserdisc from Criterion and the last on a horrible looking HD-DVD. I am glad I took the risk and upgraded to the Criterion blu ray. This is one fabulous looking visual feast. The detail in the dark picture is unbelievable. Have always been unable to see what is going on. Not anymore. I don't know how Criterion did it, but you can see in the darkness without the blacks looking gray. And they tweaked the color where the Polygram DVD looked golden colored. Just make sure you watch this in a dimly lit room because most of this movie is dark. It is presented in its original 2.35 Super 35 widescreen format. With two soundtracks in DTS-HD. The "newest" being an alternate 5.1 optimized for home theater. Looks like most of the special features are carried over from Criterion's Laserdisc (like the commentary), except for this fantastic looking transfer and this wonderful newer soundtrack. I can't say it enough: upgrade to the blu ray if you are a fan of this thriller. I realize it is costly, but with Criterion you shouldn't be disappointed.
Just wished Criterion would get the rights to release SEVEN on blu ray. Their Laserdisc was awesome back in the day and the Warner blu ray can't touch the brilliance that Criterion brought to that dark movie.
Criterion has always done the darker David Fincher films right.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2004
Format: VHS Tape
Having read about 60 of the reviews for this film, I can't believe no-one has offered the opinion that this film is basically a religious allegory - a sinner, whose disdain for other people shows in his attitude to his ex-wife, and brother - has taken away from him all that he possesses (or is possessed by). He is restored, redeemed if you will, by the mysterious operations of CRS. It seems fairly obvious.
Looked at like this, the plot and the ending (which seem to have outraged so many of the reviewers) don't call so much for a suspension of disbelief as a willingness to participate in the symbolic coherence of the allegory. I'm not a Christian, but I can admire the courage of a film that dares to push the narrative so far, and in such a direction.
Douglas is excellent as the central character hardly trying at all not to repeat the "fall" of his father (until CRS comes along), while Penn, to his enormous credit, makes a credible brother. Unger I like to think of as the presiding angel of the film, one who appears as a nuisance to Douglas, but leads him eventually through the shadows - and she does very well too.
One other thing - the score, by Howard Shore, is terrifically simple, plangent and tense by turns; the film would not please so much without it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
"The Game" is Michael Douglas at his finest in his portrayal as a Type A workaholic at the top of his game.
His somewhat underachieving brother, portrayed by Sean Penn, gives Douglas a birthday gift in the form of a "game" where reality takes a dive and Douglas' life goes into a spin. Although there were a few areas that were a little hard to follow - the premise of this reality game is so imaginative and real. It is only when Douglas hits rock bottom that he realizes how isolated from the real world he has become and what is truly important in life.
I thought this movie was insightful and masterful. I watch it frequently and it always delivers a powerful message.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
Anyone who claims this movie was predictable, or that the ending was a let down obviously didn't get it. I regret that there are those who didn't bother suspending their disbelief for even a second to try and grasp the whole purpose of the film.
I have reapeatedly recommended this movie to friends, telling them always, "This is the only movie I can promise you won't guess the ending to." At first watch, no matter how many times you think you've got it, you still don't. Without saying too much, the second viewing lets the purpose of the plot sink it, and your understand the sort of "suicide intervention" that takes place, as Douglas's character finally understands himself, his true motives, and his emotional health, independant of all the money in the world.
This may not make much sense to someone who has never seen this, but I don't want to ruin "The Game" for you. Buy it, watch it, play along, and you'll love it.
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