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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

 

The Game [Blu-ray]

 

(David Fincher, 1997)

 

   

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Polygram Filmed Entertainment

Video: Universal Home Video (UK) vs. Criterion Collection - Spine # 627

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! / Region 'A' (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:08:38.37 / 2:08:48.262

Disc Size: 33,418,033,419 bytes / 48,077,262,359 bytes

Feature Size: 32,725,186,560 bytes / 39,072,528,384 bytes

Video Bitrate: 22.80 Mbps / 29.49 Mbps

Chapters: 33 / 29

Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: October 25th, 2010 / September 18th, 2012

 

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 / 2.40:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: VC-1 Video / MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 4195 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4195 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS Audio French 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio German 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio Portuguese 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio Russian 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio Spanish 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio Spanish 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit

DTS-HD Master Audio English 4312 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4312 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 4140 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4140 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, none

English, none

 

Extras:

None

Audio commentary by director David Fincher, Savides, actor Michael Douglas, screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris, digital animation supervisor Richard “Dr.” Baily, production designer Jeffrey Beecroft, and visual effects supervisor Kevin Haug
An hour’s worth of exclusive behind-the-scenes footage (5) and film-to-storyboard comparisons (4) for four of the film’s major set pieces, with commentary
Alternate ending (1:11)

Psychological Test Film (1:11)
Trailer (2:26) and teaser (1:34), Teaser Render Test (:59) with commentary
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Sterritt

 

Bitrate:

Universal Home Video (UK) - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP
Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Description: The enormously wealthy and emotionally remote investment banker Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) receives a strange gift from his ne’er-do-well younger brother (Sean Penn) on his forty-eighth birthday: a voucher for a game that, if he agrees to play it, will change his life. Thus begins a trip down the rabbit hole that is puzzling, terrifying, and exhilarating for Nicholas and viewers alike. This multilayered, noirish descent into one man’s personal hell is also a surreal, metacinematic journey that, two years after the phenomenon Se7en, further demonstrated that director David Fincher was one of Hollywood’s true contemporary visionaries.

***

For the follow-up to his dark crime thriller Seven, director David Fincher decided to remain in a film noir vein. The result is The Game, a fast-paced cinematic roller-coaster ride that stars Michael Douglas as Nicholas Van Orton, a joyless San Francisco investment banker who receives an unusual birthday present from his estranged younger brother, Conrad (Sean Penn). The gift enrolls Nicholas in CRS (Consumer Recreation Services), a company that designs elaborate real-life games for each specific participant. As the game begins, the reluctant Nicholas becomes the victim of a series of pranks that quickly turn malicious and dangerous. Stripped of his finances and convinced that he can trust no one, Nicholas realizes that this game may be an attempt to steal his fortune and leave him for dead. In a desperate bid to regain his life, Nicholas infiltrates CRS in order to uncover the secrets of the mysterious organization. Douglas is perfect playing the uptight businessman Nicholas, cleverly riffing on his Oscar-winning performance as the cold-blooded Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. Fincher's Kafkaesque carnival show is an exercise in taut filmmaking that mischievously pulls a seemingly endless supply of rugs out from under both Nicholas and, even more impressive, the viewer.

 

 

The Film:

"The Game,'' written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris, is David Fincher's first film since "Seven,'' and projects the same sense of events being controlled by invisible manipulation. This time, though, there's an additional element: Van Orton is being broken down and reassembled like the victim of some cosmic EST program. And it is unclear, to him and to us, whether the Game is on the level of a fraud, or perhaps spinning out of control.

The movie's thriller elements are given an additional gloss by the skill of the technical credits, and the wicked wit of the dialogue. When Van Orton's brother asks, ``Don't you think of me anymore?'' he shoots back, "Not since family week at rehab.'' And when his ex-wife asks if he had a nice birthday, he answers, "Does Rose Kennedy have a black dress?'' The film's dark look, its preference for shadows, recalls "
Seven'' and also Fincher's "Alien 3.'' The big screen reveals secrets and details in dark corners; on video, they may disappear into the murk. Like ``Seven,'' the plotting is ingenious and intelligent, and although we think we know the arc of the film (egotist is reduced to greater humility and understanding of himself), it doesn't progress in a docile, predictable way; for one thing, there is the real possibility that the Game is not an ego-reduction program, but a death plot.

Douglas is the right actor for the role. He can play smart, he can play cold, and he can play angry. He is also subtle enough that he never arrives at an emotional plateau before the film does, and never overplays the process of his inner change. Indeed, one of the refreshing things about the film is that it stays true to its paranoid vision right up until what seems like the very end--and then beyond it, so that by the time the real ending arrives, it's not the payoff and release as much as a final macabre twist of the knife.

Excerpt from Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun Times located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
 

There was a, less-than-stellar received, HD-DVD version of The Game released back in April of 2007 HERE.  This Blu-ray exceeds the single-disc capacity of that, now-defunct, format - although it does use the same VC-1 encode. This is dual-layered with a moderate bitrate for the 2-hour film and it can look quite thick and heavy - a similar description of the HD-DVD. This is actually how I recall the theatrical appearance as well - dark, murky and shadowy - almost harkening back to classic noir low-lit visuals. There is plenty of rich grain but also noise in some of the darkest scenes but this seemed more prevalent on DVD. There is a German Blu-ray with similar technical stats - but not exact - from what I have been told. This Blu-ray has some depth and looks reasonably competent in-motion. It is very clean and the image quality is consistent. My guess is that this is not far off Fincher's intended appearance (read 'style') for the film - meaning it is not pristinely sharp or bright.

The differences with the Criterion are fairly subtle but do exist. I saw this theatrically but don't recall the color scheme enough to make definitive statements. I've done my best to match the captures with the UK but I may be off a frame or two on some of them. The 2.40:1 aspect ratio Criterion seems marginally cropped on the sides and top edge but the AVC Video transfer is advertised as being '...new, restored digital transfer, supervised by director of photography Harris Savides' and as it is also more robust, and appears sharper, than the UK edition I would think this is the most accurate to the intended look of the film. It gave me a great presentation - I loved watching this richer, crisper The Game.   

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Universal Home Video (UK) - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP
Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Universal Home Video (UK) - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP
Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Universal Home Video (UK) - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP
Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Universal Home Video (UK) - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP
Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Universal Home Video (UK) - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP
Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Universal Home Video (UK) - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP
Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Universal Home Video (UK) - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP
Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Universal Home Video (UK) - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP
Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Universal Home Video (UK) - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP
Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Universal Home Video (UK) - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP
Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Universal Home Video (UK) - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP
Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Universal Home Video (UK) - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP
Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Universal Home Video (UK) - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP
Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Universal Home Video (UK) - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP
Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Universal Home Video (UK) - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP
Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Audio :

The audio track is quite strong - we get a DTS-HD Master 5.1 at a buoyant 4195 kbps. Where I might not use the term 'crisp' it definitely had some depth and range. There is some nice music in the film including a beautiful segment with Debussy's "Clair De Lune" that sounds wonderfully clean. The original score is by Howard Shore and it blends in nicely with the action and suspense of the film. This audio rendering is certainly above-average - it can be downright impressive at times. There are subtitle and DUB options and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

Audio is wonderful offering the original theatrical 5.1 surround soundtrack via a DTS-HD Master at 4312 kbps plus we have a second option of an alternate 5.1 surround mix optimized for home theater viewing, supervised by sound designer Ren Klyce and presented in a similarly robust DTS-HD Master at 4140 kbps. There are differences and the alt-track sound very cool with crisp separations. Howard Shore's score sounds excellent via uncompressed. There are optional English subtitles on Criterion's region 'A'-locked Blu-ray disc.

 

Extras :

There are no supplements - which is a shame because the film certainly deserves some discussion. Some fans really wanted this film on Blu-ray so I expect better available with no extras than not released at all. A Fincher commentary would have been sweet though.

This is where Criterion really vault further ahead. We get the audio commentary by director David Fincher, Savides, actor Michael Douglas, screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris, digital animation supervisor Richard “Dr.” Baily, production designer Jeffrey Beecroft, and visual effects supervisor Kevin Haug from the 1997 Criterion Laserdisc. It still has value in discussing the production details. There is an hour’s worth of exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and film-to-storyboard comparisons for four of the film’s major set pieces, (Dog Chase, the Taxi, Christine's House, The Fall) with commentary. We get the 1-minute-11second alternate ending, plus a Psychological Test Film that CRS uses in The Game to test Nicholas's tolerance for violence and stimulating image of which only a portion are seen in the film. There is a trailer (2:26) and teaser (1:34), teaser Render Test (:59) with commentary plus the package has a liner notes booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Sterritt.

 

Universal Home Video (UK) - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

 

Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
I recall my first viewing of The Game in the theater with my wife and another couple - the men enjoyed it, the women disliked it. My opinion of Fincher always seems to be changing. Sometimes I think he is a masterful director - other times a bit cheap and playful. The Game is one that still keeps me on the fence - but even in repeat viewings I am entertained - which is all we can really ask for. It definitely requires 'giving over' to it somewhat. The Blu-ray is bare-bones but has authentic looking and sounding a/v. I think fans with high expectations for 'reference' image will have to come to the realization that this is very well how the film actually looks (dark, heavy and mysterious). The price sure is right for those keen to give it a spin...

Criterion, with their additional commentary, other extras and zippy alt-track option make for the most complete release. We bow to the DoP regarding the visuals appearance and it looks again like we have the definitive digital release for Fincher's wild ride in The Game. An easy recommendation - buy with confidence.   

Gary Tooze

November 3rd, 2010

September 6th, 2012

 

   

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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