Alright, so before I get into any specifics about this movie… I will first start out by saying that I actually enjoyed the film. I didn’t think I would– I went into that film thinking that I was going to hate it, that the film would be a shallow attempt at just showing people doing cheap thrills for childish reasons and that would be that. And in some cases, it was just that…but this film goes one or two steps beyond just that and actually comes together to be fairly enjoyable over all. Granted, Nerve wont stir up any overly intense and thoughtful debates, but it does go so far as to at least have a specific moral and social stance rather than just showing us cheap thrills for the sake of ‘going too far’.
Industrious high school senior Vee Delmonico (Emma Roberts) is tired of living life on the sidelines. Pressured by her friends, Vee decides to join Nerve, a popular online game that challenges players to accept a series of dares. It’s not long before the adrenaline-fueled competition requires her to perform increasingly dangerous stunts. When Nerve begins to take a sinister turn, Vee finds herself in a high-stakes finale that will ultimately determine her entire future.
Prior to seeing this film, I had read about 60 or so chapters of a Japanese manga called Real Account that shares some similarities in terms of the ramifications of social media as well as some of its harsh realities. In the manga, there is a worldwide social media platform called ‘Real Account’ that allows you to basically put all of your personal life on the net, and it is registered with your actual real-life credentials so there is very little ananimity even online, or so the people of the comic think. One day, a group of about 10,000 or so are transported to a place where they get to compete against the other players, but there are some kickers: If you lose all of your followers, you die, and if you lose an given game, anyone following you also dies. The very first thing the game maker says after informing the ‘players’ of the rules is to broadcast a message worldwide letting the entire would know that is they wanted to unfollow anyone and save themeselves they are free to do so. What follows is a huge chunk of the gameplayers dying as people unfollow their beloved cyber-friends with the mindset that it is okay because, said person, has ‘x’ friend or ‘x’ family member that will still follow them. But no one does, in spite of the ideal that ‘real account’ provides you with a way to gain REAL friends quickly becomes a myth. And that’s just the beginning, was ensues is more horrific games that shows the lengths and depths people will go to survive, seek thrills, kill others around them and more. I bring this manga up not because it has any one-to-one similarities, but because like Real Account, Nerve battles with the idea of morality and anonymity on the internet and also to show you the sort of mindset I had going into the film.
Nerve has a lot of thrills in it, from people walking on ladders accross to building and kissing total strangers, to hiding underneath a train as it passes by or hanging from a high-rise crane with one hand for a few seconds. Many of these scenes get rather intense and, quite honestly, this is probably where most people will take enjoyment away from the film. Like horror movies, you anticipate the moment where a character will bite the dust and every obstacle they overcome just ramps up the tension that much more. So if you’re into that sort of film, I suspect you have already seen this movie, and if you haven’t, you’re in for a fun ride!
As the game says, Nerve is like ‘Truth or Dare’ without the truth. Watchers can pay to have the players do dares– but the bigger the cash prize, the crazier and more dangerous the dare. But the question becomes not what you’re willing to do for money, but more interestingly, what people are willing to pay to see. They hide behind their touch screens as they pay people to do stunts they wouldn’t consider doing in a million years– worse yet– they have the gaul to try and manipulate the players more and more. What humans are capable of, as a collective, is way crazier than what we do singularly. You can hide in a group- you’re less exposed, and because of that– it’s easier for the ‘hive mind’ to take over and we can go from simple dares, like kissing a stranger, to extreme ones like daring someone to shoot and kill another person just’because’.
What gave me more respect for the film, however, is how it went beyond the simple cheap thrills and actually attempted to have a moral backbone. It attempts to show, in some small way, both the dangers of not getting out there and having real experience as well as the idea that, even in a crowd or as part of a collective mind– you have a part in the decisions that the group makes. Sitting back and doing nothing makes you just as complicit as you pulling the trigger in the first place. You should do the right thing regardless of how safe you are from danger and additionally if you allow others to experience things for you– from a safe vantage point, you won’t know when ‘enough is enough’.
This movie is by no means perfect, however, and some of the acting is lackluster. Not from the two main character’s who have a solid amount of performance under their belt, but a lot of the secondary characters are distractingly bad or overly cliche to the point of become cartoons. Additionally, the over all writing in the film could have used some work and possibly a flashback for Franco-mini would have given the final scenes more weight over all. But in spite of that, the film was pretty enjoyable and there was seldom a dull moment.