Film / The Game
"What do you get for the man who has... everything?"
"I don't care about the money. I'm pulling back the curtain. I want to meet the wizard."
Nicholas van Orton

The Game is a David Fincher directed movie, released on September 12th, 1997.

It centers around Nicholas van Orton (Michael Douglas), a bored, disillusioned businessman who spends his days in his office. So well-ordered he has driven out all romantic prospects, Nicholas soon receives a gift certificate from his brother Conrad (Sean Penn), which involves participating in a potentially-dangerous game, courtesy of a group called Consumer Recreation Services. Not long after signing up things soon get bizarre and the line between the game and reality begins to blur.

Now has a character page in desperate need of expansion.

This film runs on various twists and turns. You will learn them if you read any further. You Have Been Warned.

The Game contains examples of:

  • All Is Well That Ends Well
  • And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt: "I was drugged and left for dead in Mexico - and all I got was this stupid T-shirt".
  • A-Team Firing: Inverted in the cafeteria scene. The guards really don't give a damn who gets killed.
  • Book Safe: Nicholas keeps a revolver hidden in a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. Which CRS knew about and loaded with blanks.
  • Break the Haughty: The entire point, with the end goal being for Nicholas to achieve catharsis by willingly committing "suicide" and emerge from the game a happier man.
  • Chekhov's Army: A major theme in the film, revealed in the cafeteria scene in which every extra is revealed to have been a part of the game.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Might as well be CRS's company motto. The amount of planning, foresight, preparation and improvisation that's necessary to successfully run the schemes they do is mind-boggling, and next to impossible to pull off in Real Life.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: When Nicholas destroys the smoke detector in Christine's apartment, CRS agents immediately start lighting them up with high-powered silenced machine guns.
  • Driven to Suicide: Possibly Nicholas's father. Later in the movie the trope is subverted with Nicholas himself. He tries to commit suicide, but instead harmlessly falls into a dome of breakaway glass and a safety mattress.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: The ending reveals the entire thing was a fake game.
  • Epiphany Therapy: The game is designed based on the player's profile to shake things up and give him a dose of whatever he needs.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Literally - there's no way in hell Nicholas couldn't have spotted the huge white cross on the even bigger safety mattress below him when he jumps off the roof in the finale.
  • Foreshadowing: After despairing to Nicholas, sobbing and crying, Conrad has a huge grin on his face when Nicholas leaves, which is a hint that the game is just that, a harmless game.
  • Friendly Scheming: Everything was just a game; Nicholas' brother Conrad and a number of his friends and colleagues were in on it.
  • Fun with Acronyms: CRS stands for Consumer Recreation Services. And a few other things... all of which are manifestations of the same company.
  • Gaslighting: The modus operandi of CRS is to put Nicholas in ever more insane situations and drive him into a paranoid frenzy, until finally he tries to commit suicide - and instead is caught by a safety mattress, literally dropping in on his own surprise party.
  • Gambit Roulette and/ or Xanatos Speed Chess: Consumer Recreation Services' business model is one or both of these.
    • On the roulette side-The Protagonist's game involves hacking the TV channels when he's watching TV, marooning him in another country, and pretending to blow people away with high caliber weapons. They must hire exceptionally good actors / roleplayers / grifters.
    • On the speedchess side-there is no way in hell that CRS could account for every single contingency, so it's quite possible they improvised for the ones they couldn't handle. The scheme could be pulled off with one or two really good improvisers, e.g. Christine and the CRS rep, to steer him, and the rest of the cast as regular actors (not to demean real-life actors, who must have good improvisational skills). This could explain why Christine alone had to leave for the next gig at the end.
  • Generation Xerox: The goal of "The Game" is apparently to get Nicholas to commit suicide by jumping from a great height at a birthday party - which is exactly what his father did.
  • Going Commando / Skirts and Ladders: When Trapped In An Elevator with waitress Christine, Nicholas asks her to crawl out the roof hatch. An embarrassed Christine reveals she's reluctant to do this because she's not wearing anything under her short skirt. Given what happens later, this is likely deliberate so as to mess with the protagonist's head.
  • I'm Not a Doctor, but I Play One on TV: Douglas discovers the CRS representative is an actor when he sees him doing a drug commercial on TV.
  • Kick the Dog: "Like my father before me, I choose eternal sleep." "Said" by a clown. Jesus.
  • Lampshade Hanging: "What have you seen, Nicholas? What have you really seen? Special effects. Blanks. Squibs."
  • Massive Multiplayer Scam: Douglas spends most of the movie trying to figure out if it's a scam. Averted as it isn't.
  • Mind Screw: CRS drives the screw deeper into Douglas' head with each new baffling scenario.
  • Monster Clown: The CRS sends Nicholas a creepy clown doll. This is especially cruel because there were clowns at one of Nicholas's boyhood birthday parties - the one at which his father killed himself.
  • Mugging the Monster: Even the most effete rich guy can be dangerous if he's pushed to the brink of his sanity and you try to carjack him.
  • Not My Driver: Douglas steps into a cab that's subsequently driven into water.
  • Newscaster Cameo: A very unusual example with Daniel Schorr.
  • Only Sane Man: Nicholas, until the pressure of "The Game" really starts to get to him. And after that, his ex-wife Elizabeth ("You're the only person I can trust").
  • The Picture Came with the Frame: Suspecting that Christine is a CRS plant, Nicholas opens the picture frames on the walls of her apartment, and finds the pictures are cut from magazines.
  • Pleasure Island: Until the very end.
  • Police Are Useless: Massive shootouts with automatic weapons in the city center, even with silenced ones, should have the cops all over the place within minutes, but they never show up to lend a hand. Makes you wonder how deep CRS's connections really run.
  • Private Military Contractors: The security guards at CRS are no rent-a-cops.
  • Red Herring: Of all the characters and extras in the story, Van Orton's attorney and Anson Baer were the only ones who knew nothing of the scheme (save the invitation they received for the finale). In the end, they thought Nicholas organised the entire thing himself. Unfortunately, that also means he did genuinely embarrass himself and act like a madman in front of both earlier.
  • Rule of Symbolism: When Nicholas takes Jim Feingold hostage with a gun, Feingold is with his children in front of the albino tigers at the San Francisco Zoo. By this point, Nicholas does feel like "a tiger in a cage."
  • Scary Surprise Party: Many twists and turns finally lead to a surprise party (and a hefty bill).
  • Shockingly Expensive Bill: Just to give you the rough size of the bill... look at the movie's budget. It's $ 50 Million.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "I don't care about the money. I'm pulling back the curtain. I want to meet the wizard." to The Wizard of Oz (when Dorothy finds out that the god-like ruler of Emerald City is a mere human behind a curtain).
    • Also to Alice in Wonderland, perhaps referring to the "rabbit hole" that CRS sends Nicholas further and further down.
  • Soft Glass: It's breakable, but can still cut.
  • Staged Shooting: The climax and its roof jump are filmed because it's a party.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • The book To Kill a Mockingbird contains the device which makes it possible to kill an actual mockingbird; a gun.
    • In the finale, Nicholas literally drops in on his own surprise party, crashing through a dome of breakaway glass and landing on a safety mattress.
  • Trapped in a Sinking Car: Invoked. Michael Douglas's car is plunged off a pier as part of the super-scary "game" to make his life more exciting.
  • The Unreveal: It's never revealed how much the game cost. We just see Nick and Conrad stunned over the cost at the very end, with Nick offering to split the bill.