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Houses tend to take on the personalities of their owners, for Nicholas Van Orton this is especially true. Everything on is estate is immaculately designed, and done so to keep others at a distance. In his mansion alone, Nicholas stares at the television monitoring the tumultuous financial landscape. Managing stock would be too chaotic for most to handle, yet Nicholas's compulsive need to control makes this business easy to manage, though personal relationships are more difficult.
His wife has left him, his housemaid is the only person who converses with him for more than business transactions and his brother, Conrad, tries. A forty-eighth birthday looms and that number holds a particular significance for Nicholas as it is the day his father leapt off a roof to his death. That day nags at Nicholas and his isolation keeps him from having to talk about it. The big day arrives with little fanfare until Conrad (a scene-stealing Sean Penn) hands Nicholas a card for Consumer Recreation Services: "call them" are his only words regarding the company. Nicholas hates surprises, yet the mystery surrounding the group proves too much for him to resist.
This is one of Michael Douglas' lesser hyped roles, but one of the more compelling performances in a David Fincher film. Van Orton is a titan of industry commanding hundreds of millions of dollars with his name. The game doesn't care about any of that though and watching Douglas combat with losing control as his life spirals toward disaster is a rush. Few men can make a fragile psyche look as dangerous as Michael Douglas. He is one of the more underrated actors of his generation and this is perhaps his most underrated role.
Commentary: Very few men can hold a viewers attention with his words while a film is going on like David Fincher. Little known stories like Jodie Foster being cast as Michel Douglas's younger sibling and the opening sequence's history are thrown into the mix regularly. The teaser trailer for The Game featured a marionette being led sinisterly by a puppet master, but Polygram decided to go with the puzzle theme later used for the poster. To avoid confusing viewers, Fincher shot a puzzle piece credit opening.
Visuals: By The Game, David Fincher's films began to take on a very distinct color palette. The dark browns and yellows that will define him in Fight Club, Zodiac and The Social Network are on display. His technical prowess is not quite as practiced, but the frantic pacing is unmatched by most thrillers.
A worthy purchase by any means.