ARE YOU A WATCHER OR A PLAYER?
This is the divisive question posed by Nerve, a sinister app based on truth or dare. Unadventurous Vee (Emma Roberts) joins the game as a player after a clash with friend Sydney (Emily Meade), a wild child with a slew of in-game followers watching her attempt increasingly risky dares. After meeting the enigmatic Ian (Dave Franco) on her first dare, Vee teams up with him to the delight of the watchers, pushing her further up the game’s leaderboard.
Though the film is based on a novel of the same name by Jeanne Ryan, it is clear that the subject matter can be portrayed far more effectively onscreen. We watch the action from inside the screens and smartphones, appropriately capturing the borderline obsessive behaviour of a Snapchat generation. From bright neon lights to rapidly changing camera angles and faces lit by the glow of touchscreens, the general vibe of the film is fast-paced and futuristic.
Set against this hedonistic whirl, the chemistry between Franco and Roberts is one of the film’s most obvious strengths. It is interesting to see Roberts cast as an initially timid lead, rather than the bold, dominating roles she has become known for (Chanel Oberlin in the hit series Scream Queens, among others). Her hesitant friend Tommy (Miles Heizer) is quickly eclipsed by Franco’s character (he plays the bad-boy role in a similar, though less irritating, manner to his brother James) and the rapid escalation of Vee and Ian’s relationship doesn’t seem at all forced.
DARE TO DO
Another singularly enjoyable aspect of the film is the dares themselves, which arguably tie the whole plot together. Taking cues from movies like Point Break, a 2015 film focusing on dangerous adventure sports, directors Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman use dizzying angles and quick frame changes to highlight the danger of crawling across a ladder between two twelve-storey buildings, reaching sixty miles per hour on a motorbike blindfolded and hanging one-handed from a crane over teeming city streets. The stakes are upped with every completed dare, and the sense of the story building up to a grand finale is evident.
The conclusion itself, though, doesn’t quite reflect the high-octane brilliance of the rest of the film. It is climactic, yes, but the overall ending gives no resounding moral to the lesson which Nerve has been trying to teach throughout the film: the addictive nature (and danger) of online anonymity and going viral. In this way, it’s similar to the 1997 movie The Game, built on a similar premise to Nerve – the protagonist develops a new outlook on life due to their virtual experiences, but suffers no serious consequences.
Gripes aside, Nerve is an adrenaline-fuelled film relevant to a modern audience, and an immensely enjoyable one at that. The glamour of the glaring visuals, brilliant soundtrack and thrilling dares don’t detract from the grittier side of the internet-obsessed culture, or the superbly rounded acting.
Words by Annabelle Fuller