An exhilarating ride from start to finish; which has you simultaneously poring over the screen and desperate to turn away.
Coming out of the cinema after Nerve, I felt on edge. I felt alive, pumped, confused, and slightly terrified of humanity. But most of all, I felt that I had just watched one of best movies of 2016; and it was a complete surprise to myself and many others.
Having only heard of the film’s existence a few weeks prior, I was intrigued by its trailer – but knew little else. However, I am somewhat glad of this, as I think that the film wouldn’t have been such an experience to watch had I known more.
The film centres around Vee (Emma Roberts), an introverted high school senior, following her as she embarks on a night of madness from playing the game ‘Nerve’. The premise of the game is simple; you complete dares for money, and the watchers (those who pay to watch you online) determine what your next dare is. As Vee gets drawn in further to the game, becoming paired with the mysterious and charming Ian (Dave Franco), her world begins to unravel.
The film initially seems like a typical YA film, and it handles these stereotypical aspects without verging on cheesy. There are all the expected tropes of characters in these teen films; the shy girl with the traumatic past, the dorky best friend who has been pining after her forever, the spoilt and reckless best friend who seems like an odd match for our heroine, and of course the hot sporty guy who never notices our dear protagonist. However, through the inclusion of other genres these characters become more than that, and still manage to pique our interest. The little details in these more ‘teen drama’ parts are what make them interesting though. The use of technology and computer interfaces to show interaction between characters is masterfully done; the added touches of the screen pixelating during Skype calls adding a sense of – admittedly somewhat forced – authenticity. This felt original and fresh, and immediately highlighted the significance of technology in the story.
The introduction of Ian is a welcome one, and though he is again prone to enacting a typical romantic male role, Dave Franco is wonderful as such. I have often said that Dave should replace James as the recognised, better loved Franco brother, and though I usually mean it in terms of personality – this film shows that his acting ability is also equal to his elder brother. Although still being his likeable self, Ian is a character that is somewhat edgier and tougher than previous roles played by Franco. It was a pleasure to watch him come into his own in the role. As well as this, Franco and Roberts have a good chemistry, meaning that you don’t even mind the cliched nature of their relationship. They look and work well together, their energies bouncing off each other.
The real thing that makes you invested in the narrative however are the dares themselves. Initially starting as something that’s just a little bit fun and comes as an adrenaline rush, when the dares’ difficulty increases, you find yourself moving further forward off the edge of your seat. The first few dares have you smiling and laughing along, feeling yourself get caught up in the moment. As the film goes on, they find your heart beating faster and you holding your breath. There were two dares in particular that had me struggling to breathe because they were so intense and the risks were so high. The use of POV footage in these scenes also makes them more exciting, as it’s done in a way that is not overkill (as handheld footage often can be). These dares also raise interesting moral discussion about how much we are willing to do for the sake of a high, or for the sake of money, or for the sake of social media fame. In an age where your social media presence is becoming such a prevalent and significant aspect of life, this film captures the negative side of that. We so often hear ‘do it for the vine’ as a joke, but this film steps it up a few gears and shows the possibilities that could come to fruition if we become careless.
As well as having a strong narrative and incorporating its characters well; this film is also stylistically wonderful. The use of the technological aspects to change aesthetic, such as the ‘Nerve’ profiles being shown across the city and the location shooting at night against the New York skyline, make for a visually pleasing film. As well as this, the music is absolutely brilliant; both score and soundtrack blending effortlessly to accompany the film fittingly.
This film does have faults, and those mainly lie in its tendency to stray into the stereotypical. However, it’s so engaging and exhilarating throughout, that you won’t seem to mind it at all.
Nerve is in cinemas now and is distributed by Lionsgate.