Synopsis – A high school senior finds herself immersed in an online game of truth or dare, where her every move starts to become manipulated by an anonymous community of “watchers.”
My Take – Can you imagine life without internet? The internet has become an ever expanding necessity in our lives, but it has also proved itself many times to be a dangerous and seriously f*cked up place. With social media at the very heart of the world we live in, the film takes these elements to demonstrate the wide-spreading nature of this technology, as well as the hidden danger through its incredibly intriguing premise. The age of internet fame and fortune is upon us, and this Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman directed film gives us the over-dramatized Hollywood version of what some people are willing to do for this type of life. This film is an example of some of the many dangers that come with the social networks and internet fame, as well as the incredibly idiotic and life threatening things teenagers can be peer pressured into doing. Taking viewers for a glamorous ride, this film brings a harmonious medley entertainment and thought-provoking contemplation. A multifaceted film, the film doesn’t fail to give the comedic, thrilling, edge-of- your seat entertainment that film-goers crave on a night out. The chemistry between Franco and Roberts, the intense visuals, and memorable soundtrack readily draws watchers into the film. These features complement each other so well that the hearts of viewers still race hours after the end.
Based on a novel by Jeanne Ryan the story follows Vee aka Venus (Emma Roberts), an NYC teen living in the shadow of a family tragedy and the claustrophobic presence of her over-protective mother (Juliette Lewis). Always timidly in the shadow of her best friend – the extrovert Sydney (Emily Meade), who is enjoying her newly found internet fame with the help of the new viral internet game ‘Nerve’: a social media ‘Truth or Dare’ (“but without the truth”) challenge game where you can either be a Player or a Watcher. In real time, Watchers set Players with challenges they have to complete for ever-escalating financial reward, but Bail or Fail and you lose all. And snitches get punished. With their friendship at breaking point, Vee is provoked into playing the game by Sydney and teams with fellow gamer Ian (Dave Franco) – someone with a history that could bring Vee into great danger. However, Vee’s geeky friend Tommy (Miles Heizer) is on the case to expose Ian and to help Vee win the game. The challenges begin harmless enough but spiral inevitably to complete chaos as Vee does things she never have thought of on her own. Along the way we meet a few of the other Players, who are struggling with their own reasons for playing the game and one in particular who may know more than he is telling. Directing duo Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman who brought us the last most recent Paranormal Activities and probably most famed for Catfish, give us a rather illuminating adventure across New York City following participants taking part in a viral game which is sweeping across the city’s hipster community where players take on dares to win money and watchers pay to be spectators of their favorite contestants. It’s a radical idea but not so unbelievable like a purge. One thing that was great about this film was that the dares were realistic, and didn’t feel ridiculous. All of the things that Venus is dared to do are things that you know actually could happen in real life. The dares range from her getting a tattoo, to her having to go 60 miles per hour on a motorcycle while the driver, Ian, is blindfolded, and while the dares get more and more intense as the film goes on, nothing felt overly unbelievable or too exaggerated just for the sake of putting it in the film. The world building in this film was very believable as well. The game felt like a phenomenon, and it actually felt like something that could happen in real life. There were shots of the city that showed the different usernames of all of the different people who were logged into the game, and this was an effective way of conveying just how popular the game was in the films universe. Another reason for why this film is so fascinating to me is that it could actually happen someday. This film has come out at a time where apps like Pokemon Go has been the cause of many road accidents and other such crimes making the film’s release perfect. The film overall is a social and cautionary tale about the dangers and risks that we take everyday using technology and social media. Take the new Pokemon Go game as a perfect example. I remember when the original Pokemon games came out back in the mid to late 90’s and I remember playing them on a friend’s Nintendo Gameboy, which like many other technical products from back in the day as since been discontinued. The game was enjoyable back then and all the other kids at school were playing it, but it was nothing like what is currently going on with the hand-held devices people are playing Pokemon Go on and also the game itself. I have heard of professional people who have quit their jobs and given up their careers just so they can play this game.
One person was so immersed in the game on their mobile tablet that they did not bother to watch where they were going and ended up walking off of a cliff. Also people around the world are showing up at stranger’s houses just so they can catch the much desired Pokemon characters and be the winner of this game that will bring you no real fame, or fortune, but instead just bragging rights that will soon fade away as soon as the next technological craze or game comes along. Also look at how voyeuristic our culture and society has become. This idiotically-scary-in-a-real-way film has some rather tense moments whose impact is further amplified by the films scary realism. The films theme and timing couldn’t have been any better and the film itself really brings the tension when it comes to what some teenagers would do for fame and money. There’s no overt pressure from the film to draw a certain conclusion, or for watchers to take a certain stance on social media. Rather, it presents an unbiased entry into the thrilling world of social media with its upsides and downsides. Franco and Roberts display superb acting in the way they manifest of their characters history and unique motives through the course of the adrenaline-filled night. The film provides a stunning look at the different personalities and impulses that draw people to social media without explicitly labeling motives as wrong or right. This film comes at an especially relevant time with the increasing concern over social media and its consequences, and the directors produced a wonderful spark to incite discussion and awareness on this important topic. However, there’s no force on audiences to answer to the social media dilemma. Viewers can draw their own conclusions as their personalities and thoughts guide them through the film. The plot holds a few surprises every now and then, for example Ian’s true motivations for playing the game are slowly revealed and quite surprising, and some of the dares become super risky later on and you’re left not sure of the outcome. In all though, the film definitely comes off as a teen film, with most of its cast elder teens, and littered with the High School dramas that angle inherently comes with. All the typical archetypes are there as well; the shy main character who proves she’s not all she’s cracked up to be, the handsome but slightly jerky jock, the computer nerd who has an unrealistic knowledge of hacking, the slutty best friend with underlying personal issues, the mystery charmer who sweeps the main character off her feet, the punk antagonist etc. etc. Take away the concept, and it’s just another teen high school film like any other, hitting all the same beats. Fortunately Venus’s drama has more gusto behind it and her obstacles require more bravado to overcome. Unfortunately, she has some plot points that were practically worthless despite the setup at the beginning of the film. There were few explanations to some of the family dynamics, the struggle for choosing a school wasn’t as big an issue, and her introverted nature disappeared rather quickly. And I am still not sure how the ending worked. Oh well, at least we got plenty of fun thrills and a good moral lesson right? The cast did well with their characters, and their emotions were clearly expressed. Both Emma Roberts and Dave Franco have good chemistry and are fun to watch. As the protagonist, Emma Roberts did well in displaying her character’s conflicting and transitioning state of mind as the story progressed. Franco does well as the male lead, but I felt that his character was a little more superficial than Roberts‘. While background information on his character is provided, it feels like something is lacking. However, the writing for them seems to work with the personalities of the actors rather than their characters. Emily Meade, Miles Heizer and Machine Gun Kelly were great. On the whole, ‘Nerve’ is a tightly paced thriller that despite its issues is competently made, well acted and enjoyable to watch. This film is what we call disposable fun.
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 96 minutes