Technology is scary. Whether it’s bleeping at us incessantly, blinding us with bright LED lights or simply trying to enslave us and bring about an apocalyptic future, new technologies have always been utilised and explored by inventive filmmakers and storytellers in a manner which questions such advancements and dares to wonder just how far they could be used or misused.
Daring is not just an apt adjective to describe Nerve, an adaptation of the novel by Jeanne Ryan from Catfish creators Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. In actual fact, the entire plot relies heavily on the classic Truth or Dare game, now transposed to App form in a worldwide playable dare game entitled ‘Nerve’, where players either pay to watch or play to win big money for completing dare challenges. When unadventurous high schooler Vee (Emma Roberts) decides to play, she soon finds herself paired with fellow player Ian (Dave Franco). As the dares continue and the money piles in, the stakes raise considerably higher and it soon transpires that the game is not one you can simply quit.
Nerve is a film full of solid ideas, one which takes concepts like Social Media and Gaming Apps, and twists them into something that is both sinister and realistic. Throughout the film, the dares set by the watchers grow more dangerous and life-threatening, and yet the players must complete them or lose everything. Ideas like internet privacy and hacking come to the forefront here, whilst the filmmakers offer plenty of biting social commentary on internet forum commentators, online trolling and how unattached society can become to violence and suffering when it’s viewed through a mobile screen. The events here may appear far-fetched at first, and yet they are all entirely plausible, especially in this internet-savvy age where a shooting can be uploaded and viewed online in seconds.
Nerve is blessed with an adrenaline soaked screenplay by Jessica Sharzer, one which not only finds plenty of tense situations to throw its characters into (a vertigo-inducing sequence involving a ladder midway in is particularly nerve-wracking) but also excels in finding dark and shocking ways to keep things interesting through some decent twists. Likewise, the direction is extremely kinetic and visually engaging throughout, thanks to some fast-paced editing and great camera effects.
Nerve excels when it takes a satirical swipe at Internet and App users, and how said-users consume content. It offers interesting ideas to contemplate long after the film is done and dusted, and works well as a pulse-pounding thriller in its own right. Some great performances from the two leads, skilful direction and a clever script all coalesce into a film which is surprisingly full of substance. Technology may be scary, but at least in the making of Nerve, it’s being put to some good use.
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