Nerve had all the promising signs of a summer blockbuster, yet the response was all slightly underwhelming. I think the root of the problem is that this film is a strange mixture of inspired and predictable. The basic plot is that a shy teenage girl (Vee) enters an underground online game of, “Truth or dare, minus the truth”. Although exhilarating at first, it quickly transpires that this game is dangerous and not the light-hearted fun she had originally anticipated.
The base story, a teenage girl finding herself and her courage, with a bit of romance on the side, comes off as unoriginal and slightly dull. I’ve seen a dozen movies just like it, and I don’t think we need another one. What I do find incredible are the subtleties of the movie, and there are a lot of them. The over-sized phones – more like phablets – are a constant, in ways we might not notice.
A huge proportion of the film is viewed either through a phone or focuses on the screen of one. It means that no matter what, we are always focusing on the phones in an uninterested way; much like the way we interact with our own technology day-to-day.
I couldn’t get enough of the lights and colours that were used in this movie. Early on, the colour green is used to demonstrate a part of Vee’s comfort zone; her room is painted green, and her school colours are green and gold. Once Ian is introduced to the story neon blue becomes the dominant colour – everything from his name on the screen, to the lights on his bike, to the lights in the rooms they’re in. Each scene is dedicated to creating both a conscious and subconscious atmosphere and nudges the viewer in the direction that the film needs.
Another gorgeous subtle move made in this film is the descent into anonymity. Around half way through the film the watchers of the game start wearing masks, putting their hoods up and disguising themselves. The dares progress towards an ever-increasing risk of injury or death, and the more scared the players get, the more the anonymous watchers revel in it. The clips of watchers around the city demonstrate how such different people could all want the same thing when they no longer have consequences to consider.
By the end of the film the watchers are all disguised and are behaving as viscously as possible; wanting someone to be shot and killed for their entertainment. This progression is very understated so that by the time you get to the end of the movie it feels natural that the watchers are disguised, despite them openly showing their faces in the beginning.
Although the film has been criticised for being a technology-obsessed teen movie, I think this is actually one of its best features. It doesn’t hide away from the fact that obsession with technology can take over your life. It doesn’t shy from demonstrating how addicted to our phones we can be, and it doesn’t let us forget that although we may think we can be anonymous online, there’s no safety in that assumption.
Overall I think I can get over the slightly stiff acting at times and the lacking plot/dialogue, purely because of the vision that went into the movie. I appreciate how difficult it is to create such subtle aspects to a film that creep up on you and leave you with questions. I’ve watched this film several times now and each time I do I always notice something new, something I didn’t notice before but was somehow aware of it in the back of my mind.
Written by: Anna Simmons