A high school senior finds herself immersed in an online game of truth or dare, where her every move starts to become manipulated by an anonymous community of “watchers.”
Starring the amazing and very pretty Emma Roberts, and the always charismatic Dave Franco, “Nerve” is a new thriller about a high school senior named Venus (Emma) who joins an online community, called Nerve, of adrenaline-junkies where anonymous watchers can dare players to do, well, whatever they want to see someone do.
From start to finish, this film is a non-stop white-knuckle thrill ride that is exciting, intense, romantic, and most importantly, a lot of fun. Trust me, you will have a smile on your face the entire runtime of this movie, and you’ll also be on the edge of your seat. Now, I’m going to be honest, maybe my low expectations made this movie better to me than it really is, but I can’t help that I had an absolute blast watching this film.
One thing that was great about this movie was that the dares were realistic, and didn’t feel ridiculous. All of the things that Venus is dared to do are things that you know actually could happen in real life. The dares range from her getting a tattoo, to her having to go 60 miles per hour on a motorcycle while the driver, Ian (Dave Franco), is blindfolded, and while the dares get more and more intense as the film goes on, nothing felt overly unbelievable or too exaggerated just for the sake of putting it in the film.
And watching Venus and Ian complete their dares and gain money was so much fun to watch. Their chemistry was fantastic, and I bought their friendship throughout the film. What can I say? They made a cute on-screen couple. It was also satisfying to see Venus go from a shy and timid girl to an adrenaline junky, but hey, I’d do the same thing if someone was offering me thousands of dollars.
The world building in this film was very believable as well. The game of Nerve felt like a phenomenon, and it actually felt like something that could happen in real life. There were shots of the city that showed the different usernames of all of the different people who were logged into the game, and this was an effective way of conveying just how popular Nerve was in the films universe.
The color palette was also hypnotizing. Bright, vibrant, neon reds, blues, and purples are a feast for the eyes, and the soundtrack, which is comprised of light techno music, accompanies and mixes with the colors very well and fits the overall tone of the film.
“Nerve” is a fantastically fun and incredibly intense movie that has great chemistry between Emma Roberts and Dave Franco, great visuals to go with an awesome soundtrack, and cool action sequences in the form of the dares that the characters have to complete. I would highly recommend this film to anyone who just wants to spend an hour and a half gripping their seat with a smile on their face.
With great internet power comes great irresponsibility. This is the premise behind “Nerve”, a film whose producers must have wet themselves with excitement that the Pokemon Go craze aligned so nicely with the release of their film. I was delighted that at last this summer there is a film with a modicum of originality I can enthuse about.
‘Vee’, short for Venus (Emma Roberts, niece of Julia Roberts) is an NYC teen living in the shadow of a family tragedy and the claustrophobic presence of her over-protective mother (Juliette Lewis, “Cape Fear”). Always timidly in the shadow of her best friend – the extrovert Sydney (Emily Meade) – Vee pooh-poohs Sydney’s compulsion with the new viral internet game ‘Nerve’: a social media ‘Truth or Dare’ (“but without the truth”) challenge game where you can either be a “Player” or a “Watcher”. In real time, Watchers set Players with challenges they have to complete for ever-escalating financial rewards… but “Bail” or “Fail” and you lose all. And “snitches get stitches”.
With their friendship at breaking point, Vee is provoked into playing the game by Sydney and teams with fellow gamer Ian (Dave Franco, younger brother of James Franco) – someone with a history that could bring Vee into great danger. However, Vee’s geeky wannabe boyfriend Tommy (Miles Heizer) is on the case….
What is so impressive about this film is that the screenplay by Jessica Sharzer (based on a novel by Jeanne Ryan) is genuinely original and is delivered with style and good humor. Sure, you can draw parallels for any film with many other sources: in here there are traces of Hunger Games/Allegiance; the “Simon Says” portion of Die Hard 3; perhaps a soupçon of “Gladiator” and Schwartznegger’s “Running Man” in the mix. But this is a novel approach to a teen flick, bang on the topical money in bringing in the frenetically viral nature of social media and aspects of the ‘dark web’, cyber security and open source programming.
The film manages to generate significant credibility about the impact that a game like this would have among a teen audience. And there is a telling message in the finale: that it is easy to be a troll without responsibility hiding behind an internet ident, but when the masks come off and the message back becomes personal then your responsibilities as an individual human can come home to roost.
The film is delivered with style and verve as well, with innovative graphics (a great title and end title design) and an ‘augmented reality’ overlay of the action showing Players and Watchers across the city. Many of the challenges are executed really well, with a few seat-clenchingly tense moments, particularly if you have a poor head for heights.
But with all this potential it unfortunately fails to be a 10* classic, smelling at times of ‘B’ movie. Which is a great shame. Emma Roberts is fine at what she does, but at times I longed for the dramatic depth of a Shailene Woodley or Chloe Grace Moretz, with the scenes with the under-used but excellent Juliette Lewis rather highlighting this differential.
The otherwise excellent script is – for me – let down by a scene of male-on-female violence which I found both distasteful and unnecessary. And a coding ‘geeks shall inherit the earth’ moment towards the end is a little too glib for my liking.
But overall the directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (“Paranormal Activity 3” and “4”) have done a fine job with a $20M budget.
Regular readers of my blog (bob-the-movie-man.com) may recall my use of the “BvS quotient” – the number of films that could be made from the budget of “Batman vs Superman”: this one has a BvS quotient of 8% meaning you could make over 12 of these instead of the superhero dud. Yes please! Although if they had doubled the budget and rounded off some of the sharp corners, this could have been a true classic. It’s still recommended for a memorable movie experience though, and probably makes it into my draft movies of the year list so far.
(For the graphical version of this review and to comment, please visit bob-the-movie-man.com. Thanks).