Thursday, July 28, 2016

Nerve Review

In the midst of this giant, blockbuster-filled summer, we have a small thriller called Nerve sneaking its way into theaters hoping to become a bit of a sleeper hit. The target audience here is definitely the teenage crowd with a bit of holdover to the young adult crowd. Basically the group of young people who are obsessed with social media and app games. I'll be honest, I didn't have super high expectations going into this movie. It didn't look that great. I also expected this to this to be a movie that the critics would completely trash and one that would tank at the box office. I was thinking somewhere between 10-30 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with a box office total of around $5 million for its opening weekend. The box office total is still to be determined, but apparently this surprised with $1.1 million on its Tuesday night opening night, which is a pretty good sign of things to come. I was also surprised to see this in the 60 percent range on Rotten Tomatoes, neck and neck with Jason Bourne. So I was like, what the heck. I'll check it out. I enjoy thrillers, so maybe this has the chance to be a decently entertaining teenage thriller. Maybe it's these low expectations that I had going in, but I was genuinely surprised with this. It's actually a fun, little thriller!

Due to the fact that this is not a big summer blockbuster and hasn't been heavily advertised, there's a chance that you have never heard of this movie. Allow me to explain. In this fictional, modern-day setting there is a game called Nerve. As the game itself describes, it's like truth or dare without the truth. It's mainly done on the phone and is about as popular as Pokemon Go is in real life. Everyone plays it. The options in the game are to be a player or be a watcher. As a player, you are fighting not only for honor and glory, but also for money. The riskier the dare, the more money you earn. But in order to keep that money, you have to keep playing and keep doing more dares. If you bail, you're out. At the end of a certain period of time, the two highest scoring players will go head to head in one final dare. The dares themselves are determined by the watchers and the creators of the game are an anonymous group that have kept this game a secret from authorities, so another rule is that you are not allowed to tell the police about this game. So yeah, this is super sketchy and I don't know why anyone would really play this if it were a real thing. But at the same time, I know people would play. And even more people would watch. And it would cause a ton of problems. 

If you find this premise intriguing, I recommend you just go see it. Please don't watch the trailer for this movie if you haven't already seen it. Or watch like the first 30 seconds or so and then turn it off. After I first saw this trailer in theaters, I honestly felt like I had watched the whole movie and I found that frustrating. I remember a day where trailers would tease a movie and make us excited. But instead we live in a day where studios think they need to spoil their whole movie in the trailer in order to get people to go see their movie, especially if it's a smaller movie like this. I hate it because I want to be surprised by a movie and if all the big moments are in the trailer, it ruins my experience in the theater. With this movie, I was hoping that I was wrong and the whole movie wasn't in the trailer, but it is. Like seriously. The whole fracking thing. Our two main characters, played by Emma Roberts and Dave Franco, are both playing this game and end up teaming up because the watchers decide to set them up. And ever single dare they do in the movie is in the trailer. Every. Single. Freaking. One. And I'm not exaggerating. Just by reading my non-spoiler premise, you know that this is sketchy game and that bad things are going to happen. But if you watch the trailer, you know exactly what bad things are going to happen because it's all there. I was furious watching this movie because of that.

If I were to grade this trailer, I would give it a big fat F. A 0/10. Despicable. Disgraceful. I hate it. I hate this trend. But this review is not a review of that trailer. It's a review of the movie. Even though I knew exactly what was going to happen, I tried not to let my thoughts on that trailer determine my opinion of the movie. That wouldn't be fair. Especially because this is actually a really fun movie. First and foremost, all of our actors completely sell this premise. It could've been a really silly, cheesy premise, but it's not. While watching this movie, you totally believe that this is a super popular game that would actually catch on like a Pokemon Go. Because, come on. We've all played some sort of variation of truth or dare in our lives whether it be extreme and crazy or harmless and fun. Because of this, you know that a truth or dare app would be super popular if it existed. Now would it be as popular if it cost money to play, required you to enter all of your personal information, and was controlled by a mysterious, sketchy organization? Probably not. But there's a lot of crazy people in this world that would participate anyways, especially teenagers who don't think about consequences and are instead motivated by incentives of power, recognition, and money.

This caused me to think what this game would be like if it existed as is in real life. It would be insane, especially if the watchers got to choose the dares people did. A lot of the dares would be raunchy and dirty. And if not that, they would be super dangerous and violent. But people would do them anyways because pride, lust, and greed would get in the way of logic and morality. Thus I realized as I watched that this movie is actually pretty tame. It's not a violent movie. It's not a graphic movie. It's not a sexually explicit movie. The worst we got was Emma Roberts and Dave Franco running around a mall in their underwear because their clothes got stolen. But come on. Don't try to tell me that their next dare in real life wouldn't be to take off their underwear and/or make love right there in public. I'm perfectly glad that this WASN'T the case in the movie. They definitely were shooting for a PG-13 rating and a light PG-13 rating at that in order to attract a teenage crowd. We didn't need to be graphic and explicit with our movie. But I'm just saying that a suspense of disbelief is required here, especially when some of the later dares get a bit cartoonish and silly. And the execution by our characters was a little too easy. No way someone would survive some of those dares.

That said, despite this being a very tame movie where a lot of the dares towards the end got a bit silly, the movie actually did a great job of building tension and making the movie suspenseful. Part of this is what I said earlier with the cast. They really sell it. Emma Roberts and Dave Franco as our two leads especially do a great job with their characters. Emma Roberts is a very attractive female who is much more than just a pretty face to look at. She's likable and charming. My new celebrity crush? Sure. She's my age and Julia Roberts is her aunt. Both pluses, right? In seriousness, though, I do hope she gets more big roles because she was the best part of this movie. And Dave Franco was cool, too. I enjoyed him in both Now You See Me movies and I enjoyed him in this. The Franco brothers are both now on a role. The acting isn't the only thing that sold this movie, though. This was a well shot, well edited movie that had a great flow to it. Never a dull moment. The cinematography was great and we had an interesting neon color scheme that grabs your attention throughout. On top of this, the score is done very well and the soundtrack works, too. All this makes for some real honest tension and suspense throughout. Never once did I fear for our characters' safety, but I was nervous during most of the dares that were done and that's because of all this combined together.

The movie also provides an interesting social commentary on our society. I mentioned the greed and pride aspect already. How many people in our world are willing to throw values and common sense out the window in order to gain popularity and recognition? Way too many. The other interesting social commentary comes with the group of watchers. This is especially prevalent in the second half of the movie, so I won't dive into specifics, but how many people in this world are much more willing to do and say awful, horrible things when they are hidden in a crowd or are anonymous? Just go look at any YouTube comment section and you'll know what I mean. People on those YouTube comment sections are bitter, mean, brutal, racist, sexist, and have no respect for people's feelings. I've seen people get unfairly mauled and attacked with zero mercy shown for things as silly as a difference of opinions on a movie. Go look at a review for anyone who didn't like Batman v. Superman or go look at the comments to those Ghostbusters trailers. Would people say things like that in real life if they were face to face? No. But hidden behind the comfort of their own computer with an anonymous username and some people are completely different people. It's a shame and it's something this movie addresses in an interesting way.

Overall I enjoyed my experience with this movie. The performances were great. The movie was well made. There was a lot of honest tension throughout as the dares got more and more dangerous. The pacing of the movie was perfect. On top of that, there were several interesting themes that were discussed that are very relevant today, especially among the teenage crowd that the movie is hoping to attract. Where the movie unravels a bit is when I stopped to think about what I watched afterwards. I could've used more twists and turns. I could've used more shocking moments. Some of the specific dares were a bit silly and unrealistic. The resolution to the movie left something to be desired for. But these are all things that started to surface in my mind after the fact. During the movie I had no time to stop and think about things in depth or work out things logically in my head. I was thoroughly enjoying the ride! As I said at the beginning of this review, expectations probably had a lot to do with this. My expectations were very low and thus I found myself pleasantly surprised. In a summer that's been full of a lot of disappointing blockbusters, this is a little thriller that feels refreshingly entertaining and fun, which is what summer movies are supposed to be. I'm giving Nerve an 8/10.

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