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There are no rules in "The Game". And that will make life very difficult for Nicholas Van Orton, a successful businessman who is always in control. Van Orton lives a well-ordered life - until an unexpected birthday gift from his brother destroys it all. Like it or not, Nicholas has been enrolled in a game - "a profound life experience" that begins quietly but soon erupts in a rush of devastating events. Van Orton has to win this deadly game or lose control of everything in his life.
For more about The Game and the The Game Blu-ray release, see The Game Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on August 31, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, Deborah Kara Unger, James Rebhorn, Carroll Baker, Armin Mueller-Stahl
Director: David Fincher
» See full cast & crew
The Game Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, August 31, 2012
David Fincher's "The Game" (1997) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include original theatrical trailer and teaser for the film; alternate ending; film-to-storyboards comparisons; behind the scene featurettes; audio commentary with director David Fincher, actor Michael Douglas, screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris, director of photography Harris Savides, production designer Jeffrey Beecroft, and visual effects supervisor Kevin Haug; and more. The release also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Sterritt. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas, Black Rain, The War of the Roses) is a powerful investment banker who lives alone in a giant mansion somewhere in San Francisco. He is filthy rich and arrogant. He does not date and his best friend is his lawyer. He drives a big black BMW.
Nicholas' younger brother, Conrad (Sean Penn, Dead Man Walking, The Assassination of Richard Nixon), is a relaxed, casual guy who did not turn out the way his parents wanted him - or so it appears. He is not as successful as Nicholas and most certainly not as arrogant. The two also do not look alike.
Conrad visits Nicholas and announces that he has a special present for his 48th birthday - a game that will reinvigorate his life. All Conrad has to do is sign a contract with Consumer Recreation Services, a company he knows absolutely nothing about.
Intrigued by his brother's claim, Conrad decides to try the game. He visits the offices of Consumer Recreation Services, fills out an application, and undergoes a series of tests. Everything appears to be fine. Much to Conrad's surprise, however, a couple of days later he is informed that his application has been rejected.
Fastforward. A beautiful blond waitress, Christine (Deborah Kara Unger, Keys to Tulsa, Between Strangers), spills a drink on Conrad and his life spins out of control - a cab driver attempts to kill him, someone drains his millions from his private bank account in Switzerland, and a group of masked men open fire at him. At one point, he even wakes up in a coffin somewhere in Mexico.
The Game is my favorite David Fincher film. It is terrifically scripted, not as gloomy as Seven, not as politically ambitious as Fight Club, not as glitzy as Zodiac, and not as sentimental as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It sure isn't as geeky as The Social Network either. It is a pure, old-fashioned action thriller, the type Hollywood is no longer interested in making.
The Game is also the type of film you could truly enjoy only once. Once you've seen the ending, it is not the same. A second viewing could only reveal how good all of the actors in The Game are, how carefully everything has been put together. Another such magical film is Gela Babluani's 13 Tzameti.
Douglas carries the entire film on his shoulders. The range of different emotions he conveys is remarkable. Early on his character is an arrogant man who sees life as a series of deals that have to be made; he always has to be on top, regardless of the situation or circumstances, and there can be absolutely no compromises. But when he is suddenly placed in an environment where he is no longer in charge, he undergoes a remarkable character transformation. His view of the world and the people around him changes dramatically.
Unger and Penn are also outstanding. You could never quite tell whether they are with or against Douglas' character, which is the primary reason why The Game is indeed a never-ending guessing game.
Note: In 1998, The Game was nominated for Saturn Award for Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film, which is granted annually by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films.
The Game Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, David Fincher's The Game arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Supervised by director of photography Harris Savides and approved by director David Fincher, this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Northlight film scanner from the original camera negative. Dirt, debris, scratches, and warps were removed using MTI's DRS, while Image Systems' Phoenix was used for small dirt, flicker, grain, and noise management, and Pixel Farm's PFClean for stabilization and flicker.
Telecine supervisors: Harris Savides, Lee Kline, Maria Palazzola.
Colorist: Gregg Garvin/Modern Videofilm, Los Angeles."
Criterion's presentation of The Game represents a solid upgrade in quality over previous releases of the film, including the Blu-ray release Universal Studios produced for the UK market, which we have reviewed here. The new and supervised by director David Fincher and director of photography Harris Savides high-definition transfer the Criterion release uses gives the film a much improved color scheme, notably stronger clarity and detail, and far more convincing shadow definition. More importantly, however, the compression is unquestionably superior. As a result, viewers who project their films on large screens will immediately notice the improved image depth, stability, and superior color reproduction. I have included a few screencaptures where these specific improvements are very easy to see. For example, compare screeencapture #18 with screencapture #4 from our review of the UK Blu-ray release, and see how the image looks much tighter and clarity is dramatically improved (in the left corner there is actually fine detail that is virtually missing from the old release). Additionally, compare screencaptures #8 in the two reviews and notice how all of the compression anomalies are eliminated on the Criterion release (see upper right corner). Examples such as these are virtually everywhere. Naturally, the larger your screen is, the more impressed you will be with the organic look of the new high-definition transfer. Lastly, there are no traces of problematic degraining/denoising corrections. As a result, a genuinely stable grain structure has been retained. The high-definition transfer is also free of serious banding and aliasing patterns. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Game Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: Near Field 5.1 Mix (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) and Theatrical 5.1 Mix (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1). For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The original theatrical 5.1 soundtrack was transferred from the 35mm magnetic X-copy master. The track is very dynamic and designed to be played in large rooms at high volume. The near field soundtrack was transferred from Sony Dash 3348 digital tapes. This mix was created in 1997 by sound designer Ren Klyce and sound rerecording mixer David Parker for the Criterion Collection's laserdisc release. The near field mix features a lower dynamic range and is optimized for playing in smaller rooms at lower volume. Both tracks were remastered at 24-bit using Pro Tools HD.
Soundtrack Master Supervision: Ren Klyce.
Soundtrack Mastering: Skywalker Sound, San Rafael, CA."
I viewed the film in its entirety with the new Near Field 5.1 Mix, which has been supervised by sound designer Ren Klyce and director David Fincher, and then did various comparisons with the Theatrical 5.1 Mix. There are some quite obvious differences between the two. On the Near Field 5.1 Mix clearly dynamic levels have been elevated and surround movement enhanced. As far as I am concerned, mid-range frequencies also appear better balanced, which is why the interactions between the piano and heavy strings from Howard Shore's score are slightly more prominent. Generally speaking, the dialog seems equally clear, stable, and clean on both tracks. There are no pops, dropouts, or audio distortions to report in this review.
The Game Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Game Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The wait was well worth it. Criterion's Blu-ray release of The Game, which uses a new and supervised by director David Fincher and director of photography Harris Savides high-definition transfer and adds a new surround mix optimized for home viewing, will undoubtedly please fans of the film who have been waiting for a solid Blu-ray release to appear in the United States. The film looks and sounds great and the excellent 1997 audio commentary is back with Criterion. Enjoy. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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