Sunday 21 August 2016

NERVE review

The premise is simple enough. People decide if they want to be a watcher or player of Nerve, performing increasingly stupid and dangerous tasks to gain money and followers until they're the last one standing.

Emma Roberts stars as Vee, a shy teenager who is too scared to approach the boy she likes at school and takes a passive role in life. When she is embarrassed by her Nerve playing friend Sydney (Emily Meade), Vee decides to sign up to Nerve as a player, quickly hooking up Ian (Dave Franco) a player with a mysterious past whose daredevil antics have seen him end up near the top of the leaderboard.

Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman who gave us the original Catfish film and later directed some of the Paranormal Activity sequels, this film unsurprisingly taps into a world where everything is documented on cameras and phones and put onto the Internet.

Tapping into that thirst for fame through exhibitionism that defines the snapchat generation, it's here that Nerve finds its strongest element. There's something that feels so very current about this film that even in this fantastical reality where things can shift from having no consequences to deadly consequences, Nerve barely seems like fiction. It's completely plausible that some of these stunts could happen, and that there would be people with camera phones lining the streets eager to document it and prove they were there when it happened.

It's not all about adrenaline junkies and exhibitionists, though. Whereas Limitless posited the idea that we only use 10% of our brains, Nerve finds its narrative by using the same statistics about the Internet. The shadowy world of the 'dark web' is casually explored here, digging into the sinister motives behind the entire Nerve game. The film also attempts to throw shade at the anonymity of the Internet, with some degree of success at highlighting the problems that give cause to issues such as Gamergate.

Largely the success of the film can be attributed to its two leads, as Emma Roberts and Dave Franco are an extremely likeable pairing that you want to see succeed. Both actors have previously been weighed down by familial expectations (a headline on Vee's laptop screen cheekily asks, "is James Franco too smart?"), but both are quickly coming into their own as charming and successful movie stars.

Liberally borrowing elements from The Running Man, The Game and Limitless (with a bit of Hackers thrown in), Nerve nevertheless manages to be a consistently entertaining romp through NYC.


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