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Film / Nerve

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Do you have the nerve?

"Welcome to Nerve. Are you a watcher or a player?"

A 2016 technothriller starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco based on the novel of the same name.

Venus "Vee" Delmonico is a high school senior who has spent her whole life following the crowd, watching her more daring best friend Sydney take risks and have fun. One day, she decides to sign up for a game called Nerve, which is described as "truth or dare, without the truth." Players take on dares for cash rewards. Watchers pay to watch and suggest dares. The game is dangerous and highly illegal, and all who sign up are warned, snitches get stitches. Vee chooses to sign up as a player, and her first dare is to kiss a stranger for five seconds. The guy she chooses, Ian, is also a player, and the watchers soon decide they like Vee and Ian together, and send them more dares to do together. Vee's having fun at first, but the stakes soon grow too high, and Vee realizes she has to bail, and, preferably, get the game shut down. But the creators of Nerve weren't kidding when they said "snitches" would be punished, and the watchers demand a show...


Dare: Read about the tropes found in this movie. $500. Do you accept?

  • Action Survivor: Vee is not cut out for a lot of what she goes through over the course of the movie, but she pulls through.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Ty gets a very sympathetic treatment compared to his literary counterpart: Book!Ty was only in it for the prizes and had no problem with the possibility of killing someone to get them. Film!Ty is being forced to play the game against his will. Eventually, he teams up with Vee to bring an end to it.
    • Tommy also gets treated better, as the film removes the plot point about him giving personal information about Vee to Nerve in exchange for prizes.
  • Adaptational Villainy: The Watchers are presented in a much more sinister light than they were in the novel, given that the film presents them as solely responsible for everything that happens (see Adapted Out below).
  • Adapted Out:
    • The book strongly implies that there is a wealthy and powerful organization behind Nerve (which is how the developers are able to do things like offer Vee a full-ride to fashion school and a prestigious internship as prizes). The film never addresses how the game is financed and places the blame for Vee's situation solely on the Watchers.
    • Three of the six finalists from the book (Micki, Jen, and Samuel) aren't present in the film.
  • Adrenaline Makeover: An interesting case. Vee actually gets more dressed up for hers, sporting a glittery dress and Letting Her Hair Down, though she keeps her old sneakers, showing how much more confident and daring she's become. A more traditional variant happens at the end, where she changes back into jeans and a hoodie for the climax.
  • Adult Fear: Vee's mother spends much of the film not sure where her daughter is, wondering about the suspicious transactions going on in her account. At the climax, she sees Vee get shot and die. Granted, Vee was faking it, but her mother didn't know that! Then you remember that Vee's brother died sometime before the story starts...
  • Adults Are Useless: To be fair, most of them are Locked Out of the Loop.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Vee likes J.P., who barely knows she exists. Tommy is obviously in love with Vee, with the whole friend group knowing about it and him being jealous of J.P and then Ian, with Sydney telling him to get over Vee after their confrontation at the party.
  • All or Nothing: There's no second place in Nerve. You either get all the money, or you get squat.
  • Alpha Bitch: Syndey is way more popular than Vee, and much bitchier. She learns better by the end.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Azhar flirts with Sydney briefly, and is played by the openly gay Samira Wiley.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: The Watchers buy Vee and Ian the fancy clothes they tried as a dare. Considering that they had their actual clothes stolen minutes before, Vee and Ian happily accept. (Once Ian confirms via receipt that the clothes were, in fact, bought and not stolen.)
  • Anti-Villain: Ty may be totally nuts and rather aggressive, but then you realize he, like Ian, is trapped in the game, and literally can't stop playing until he wins. And he teams up with Vee in the end to help put an end to the game.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Ty apologizes to Vee just before knocking her out.
  • Attention Whore: Sydney loves being the center of attention, which is why she's so good at Nerve.
  • Arc Words: "Are you a watcher or a player?"
  • Badass Biker: Ian drives a motorcycle, and at one point, reaches sixty miles an hour while blindfolded, with Vee guiding him.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Vee is a sweet, shy girl, who is terrifying when she's mad. Just ask Sydney.
    • Ian is, for the most part, a very nice fellow. A very nice fellow who was perfectly willing to kill Ty for murdering Vee, and would've done it had Vee not revealed she was still alive before he had a chance to shoot.
    • Tommy is apparently a highly talented computer hacker.
  • Big Applesauce: The film takes place in New York City (the book was in the other coast, namely Seattle).
  • Black and Nerdy: Azhar, Tommy's hacker friend.
  • Blind Driving: Ian is dared to ride his motorbike through the city blindfolded at 60 mph, using Vee to steer his body. The blindfolding is down by giving him a crash helmet with he visor completely covered in stickers.
  • Bring My Red Jacket: Literally! Vee wears a red hoodie at the climax, and gets shot. Subverted in that she doesn't actually die, and the whole thing was staged.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Ty's phone number, which he gives to Sydney in case she wants to partner up. It seems pointless after she bails from the game but she's later able to contact him to help formulate the plan with Vee to shut down Nerve.
  • Combat Stilettos: Averted. Vee tries on a pair of heels for a dare, but switches back to her sneakers for the rest of the movie, meaning she isn't running around in heels all night.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Vee picks Ian to make out with because he just so happened to be a cute guy who was sitting alone in a booth reading her favorite book. Subverted, as it's not a coincidence — he admits a watcher came in and handed him the book just before Vee arrived.
  • Creepy Monotone: The Nerve app reads dares and instructions in this manner.
  • Cute Bookworm: Vee is incredibly pretty, and spends a good minute having a gush-fest over her favorite book when she sees Ian reading it.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: The death of Vee's brother is heavily implied to have been this for their mother.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Ian and Ty played the game the year previous in Seattle, but after their friend died while playing, they tried to "snitch," only to be kidnapped, have all their personal information stolen, as well as that of their family, and losing all their money. They then became prisoners, and cannot opt out of the game. The only way out is to win.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Tommy does not get to be with Vee, although it's implied he has a shot with Sydney.
  • Dirty Coward: Many of the watchers, especially at the end. They'll gleefully egg on players to shoot each other, kidnap them and threaten to steal their identities if they tell the authorities, and vote for Vee to die, but either from the privacy of their own homes, or hiding behind masks. And none of them use their real name on the app. Vee and her friends exploit this, faking her death and informing the watchers that they're all now accomplices to murder, leading to them panicking and logging off.
  • Disappeared Dad: Vee's father is never seen nor mentioned, and it's very clear it's just her and her mom since her brother's death.
  • Distracted by My Own Sexy: After being dared to try on a fancy dress, Vee's quite taken with... herself.
  • Enforced Method Acting: In-Universe. Vee doesn't tell Ian about her plan with Ty to fake her own murder, so his reaction is very real.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Ty may be willing to go extremely far for the sake of the game, but he will not kill Vee, and agrees to help Vee and her friends end the game once and for all at the end.
    • For whatever it's worth, some of The Watchers voted against Vee dying, just not enough to stop Ty from shooting her.
  • Everything Is Online: A major plot point. After Vee signs up for the game, the game then looks into all her social media pages and everywhere she's mentioned on the internet, and is able to learn effectively everything about her, right down to her favorite book. This is also how the watchers know about Sydney's fear of heights. It's also how the game's able to hold Ty and Ian prisoner — since all their personal information is online, and they handed it over to Nerve, they could easily leak it all.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The whole movie encompasses one very stressful night.
  • Fanservice: The mall dares result in Emma Roberts and Dave Franco stripping down to their underwear. Let that image sink in.
  • Faking the Dead: Vee, as part of a plan between her and Ty, pretends to get shot to scare all the watchers into logging off, effectively crashing the game.
  • Flipping the Bird: Ian, on his second to last dare, finishes his countdown by flipping off the camera.
  • Forced Prize Fight: The final dare involves Vee and Ian each being given a gun. The first one to shoot the other wins.
  • Gambit Roulette: A lot had to go exactly right and unforeseen things had to happen for Vee's plan at the end to work.
    • Ty could've just refused to participate.
    • They didn't yet know that the final dare would involve shooting.
    • The game's network could've been more secure and the hackers might not have been able to introduce the botnet.
  • G.I.F.T.: Half of Nerve's users are the Watchers who make the Players humiliate\endanger themselves behind the safety of hiding themselves with screen names. Then Tommy and the hacker collective remove their anonymity, and the Watchers all leave the game to avoid the offline repercussions.
  • Given Name Reveal: Ian's actually named Sam. "Ian" is a name he took on after he became a prisoner of the game.
  • Goofy Print Underwear: Vee is wearing panties with a cartoon panda face on the butt. When she strips down to her underwear to change into the fancy dress, one of the watchers comments on this and wonders how old she is.
  • Guile Hero: How else do you describe a girl who's willing to fake her own death and exploit the watchers' cowardice to get the game shut down?
  • Hacker Cave: The backroom of The Cloud is set up as one. This where Tommy and the hacker collective launch their botnet attack.
  • Hacker Collective: Tommy belongs to a hacker collective known as 'the Cloud'. He turns to them when he needs to set up a botnet to attack Nerve's operating system.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: The blonde Vee is dared by her friends to become a Player specially because they think she's too wholesome and square. And boy, does her experience with Nerve change this.
  • The Heavy: Since the creators of Nerve are totally anonymous and never (as far as we know) turn up in person, we've got the watchers and Ty pushing most of the plot along.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Ty decides to stop playing the game and start bringing it down at the climax. Justified, since he's basically being held hostage by the game and doesn't really want to play.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Ian tells Vee to just shoot him, so she can win and go free, risking either dying or being seriously injured and still being a prisoner. Vee and Ty have a better idea.
    • That better idea is staging a heroic sacrifice for Vee. Ty "shoots" her (actually blanks and fake blood), and Vee pretends to die. This scares all the watchers into logging off, crashing the game. It worked so well, Ian, who wasn't in on it, nearly kills Ty for it.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Nerve's biggest strength is also it's biggest weakness: Each Watcher is essentially a server unto themselves, so as long as there's at least one Watcher, the game can never be shut down. However, that means that if all of the Watchers quit, the game will crash due to not having any servers to run on.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: The final challenge of Nerve, should you be one of the top two at the end of the night? Shoot the other finalist. Vee and Ian refuse to play ball.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Sydney, right before taking on a dare that exploits her fear of heights. It doesn't help.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: Vee at one point claims that for all her bravado, Sydney is a very insecure person. It seems to be true, though Sydney denies it.
  • In-Universe Camera: Most of the challenges are represented by footage shot by Watchers on their phones.
  • Ironic Name: Vee's full name is "Venus," which she deems ironic due to her terrible luck with boys. (Venus is the Roman goddess of love and sex.) It becomes less ironic at the movie's end.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ty. As aggressive as he is, he's only participating in Nerve because he has to, and there are lines he won't cross. He's on Vee's side by the end.
  • Just Friends: Tommy has a one sided crush/love for Vee, who doesn't return the favour, but she still calls him one of her best friends, and his motive through out the movie is to keep her out of trouble.
  • Karma Houdini: As far as we know, the creators of Nerve get no comeuppance beyond the game being shut down. Also, since Vee didn't really die, the watchers aren't really accomplices to murder, and with the game gone, there's no proof that they voted for her to die. Though at least they don't know that, so they'll have to cope with the guilt (and looking over their shoulder for law enforcement) for the rest of their lives.
  • Large Ham: Ty sure is enjoying that scenery. At the climax, almost every word he says is screamed, with some very hammy facial expressions. Turns out to be totally justified at the climax, though. The reason he's acting so over-the-top is because it's just that — acting.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Sydney, according to Vee.
  • Malevolent Masked Man: Many watchers wear masks to hide their identities.
  • Mooning: The first dare Sydney is shown performing is mooning the crowd at a pep rally: bending over and flipping up her cheerleader skirt to reveal she is not wearing underwear.
  • During the final dare, the watchers vote on whether Ty should shoot Vee. The vote is yes, but he and Vee fake it.
  • Mythology Gag: A couple:
    • Ian used to be a player in Seattle before coming to New York. Seattle was the setting of the novel (and the home of his book counterpart).
    • Ian's real name turns out to be Sam. In the novel, one of the Seattle finalists was named Samuel.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Vee and Ian need to get out of the clothes store despite having their wardrobe stolen. Instead of shoplifting the fancy clothes they're wearing, the duo strips down to their underwear.
  • Noodle Incident: We never find out how Michael died.
  • Not So Different: Vee criticizes Sydney for being promiscuous and for her absent parents. Meanwhile, Vee herself has spent the entire night (and made out several times) with a guy she knows next to nothing about, and her father appears to be completely out of the picture.
    • Also, Tommy calls out Sydney early on in the movie for being mean to Vee, only to later on call Vee out for doing the exact same thing along with callously revealing that Ian had been dared into starting the fight between Vee and Sydney seemingly out of spite of her choosing another guy over him.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Ty, probably. He comes off as a totally unhinged player who doesn't care what he has to do to win, but it eventually becomes apparent that he's only doing it because he has to play. At the end, when he's free, he seems pretty together, though shaken by what's happened. The aggressive, crazy guy act was probably just his method of coping.
  • Oblivious to Love: Vee has at the very least, a crush on the football team captain J.P who simply isn't interested in her. Inverted by Tommy in regards to Vee, as everyone at the school seems to know he's in love with her, including Vee herself.
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: The Nerve website occasionally stutters and glitches. While nothing supernatural is going on, it does serve to make the site more ominous and threatening.
  • Only Sane Man: Tommy is the only one of his friends who thinks playing Nerve is a terrible idea, pointing out that somebody died while playing it. Naturally, he winds up helping Vee fix everything.
  • Opt Out: There are three ways to stop playing Nerve. Fail, where you screw up a dare and get eliminated, bail, where you say "screw it" and just leave (this trope), and winning, where you make it to the final two and complete the final dare.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Vee's mother outlived Vee's older brother Michael. At the climax, she thinks it's happened again when Vee "dies."
  • Pietà Plagiarism: Ian cradles Vee in his arms when he thinks she's dead.
  • Playful Hacker: Both Tommy and Azhar, but especially Azhar, are nice, friendly people who have an interest in the darkweb and computer hacking.
  • Police Are Useless: Vee tries to tell an officer about the game to shut it down. Not only does this fail, it gets her kidnapped and nearly gets her killed.
  • The Power of Acting: Ty and Vee put on a damn convincing show.
  • Really Gets Around: Sydney, according to Vee.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Vee gives a particularly brutal one to Sydney at the party, calling her out on her selfish, insensitive behavior. Sydney kinda deserves it for bringing up Vee's deceased brother, though.
  • Red Herring: Ty isn't the main antagonist, as the trailers and the first 90% of the movie would have you believe. He's a prisoner and can't escape from the game, just like Ian, and becomes Vee's ally at the end.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Vee and Ian kiss after the blindfolded motorcycle ride, but it only becomes official at the end of the film.
  • Serenade Your Lover: Even if Ian has just met Vee, the Watchers dare him to do this. The diner is already playing some Roy Orbison, so cue him doing a musical performance for her.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Square in the cynical side. Indeed, the movie has a Happy Ending but the final dares show that most of the watchers (who conform the majority of people involved in the game) are quite awful people.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: "Bailing" is this, where players decide to quit playing altogether. Syndey does this about halfway through. Ian and Ty, however, have no such option, as they are "prisoners" — people who tried to snitch, and now aren't allowed to stop playing until they either die or win, for threat of having their identities stolen and all their personal information leaked.
  • Shaming the Mob:
    • At the film's climax, Vee reprimands the watchers for being willing to dare people to literally kill each other for entertainment, while they themselves hide behind masks and anonymous screen names. Some listen to her, but not enough.
    • At the very end, when Azhar and Tommy manage to override Nerve's system and reveal all the watcher's real names, they all get a message along with their screen names changing to their legal names: "YOU ARE AN ACCESSORY TO MURDER."
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Not that she was ever ugly, mind you, but Vee looks stunning in that green dress.
  • Slut-Shaming: Vee chews Sydney out for being rather promiscuous.
  • Smooch of Victory: After they survive driving at 60 MPH while Ian was blindfolded, Vee pulls him into a Big Damn Kiss.
  • Tap on the Head: Vee gets punched in the head, loses consciousness for about an hour or two and doesn't even seem to have a headache afterwards.
  • Tattoo as Character Type: Of the "personal emblem" variety. One of Vee's dares is to let Ian pick out a tattoo for her to get. He teases her a couple times, pretending to choose something ridiculous, but his actual choice is really quite sweet: the image of a lighthouse on her shoulder, because To the Lighthouse is Vee's favorite book, and the book Ian was reading when they first met.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Vee, who goes from a somewhat hesitant participant in Nerve to the girl who helped bring the game down.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: After Vee nearly dies, Sydney starts being much nicer to her, and plays a key role in ending the game. Ty, too, turns out to not be so bad.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Sydney is a toxic friend to Vee. Ultimately it is Sydney's fault that Vee signs up for Nerve, and goes through all of the hell that follows.
  • Trailers Always Lie:
    • The trailers give the impression Vee's friends told her to play Nerve. In the actual movie, they suggested she sign up, but as a watcher, and were utterly shocked that she chose to be a player.
    • They also give the impression that Ty is the Big Bad, but he's not. To be fair, this was probably to hide the fact that he becomes a good guy at the end.
    • A scene from the trailer shows Vee trying to report the game to a police officer, who then says, "Vee, don't do it," followed by Vee fearfully asking him how he knows her name. While Vee DOES try to go to the cop, this exchange between them doesn't happen in the movie.
  • Troll: Some of the people commenting on Vee's game, particularly during her dress dare, could qualify as this.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: Part of the "running out of the store" (in underwear) dare.
  • Un-person: Nerve snitches become this as their online info, and by extension their identities, is taken by the game.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: We don't know about Ty and Vee's plan until it's already happened, but it goes off without a hitch.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Vee wonders this when it's revealed Ian purposely provoked a fight between her and Sydney on a dare. However, when he reveals he literally can't refuse a dare, she almost immediately understands his situation and forgives him.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Vee goes to CalArts and continues dating Ian, or rather, Sam.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?:
    • Sydney's terrified of heights, and gets a dare to walk across a gap between two windows on a ladder, several meters from the ground. She can't do it.
    • Ian later gets a similar dare. He has to hang from a crane, one-handed, for five seconds. Bear in mind, this is how his friend died playing Nerve. And the watchers know this. He makes it, but is clearly terrified the whole time.
  • With Friends Like These...: Vee and Sydney, to the point where you wonder why Vee even sticks around.
  • Worthy Opponent: Ty considers Sydney to be this, and even suggests they team up. Sydney does not return the sentiment. He also gains a large amount of respect for Vee, but by then, they're not really opponents anymore.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Ty stone-cold punches Vee in the face after she snitches, knocking her out and leading to her becoming a prisoner.

Dare completed.


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