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Movie Review: Nerve

Dare to enter the world of Nerve. Image used from youtube.com

Dare to enter the world of Nerve. Image used from youtube.com

During the summer movie going season when we’re swamped with advertising campaigns for the biggest, newest blockbusters it’s always easy to forget those smaller films that come out, ones that don’t have a lot of attention or advertising when they come out. For the most part these films seem rather unappealing when going up against the bigger, shinier films but every now and again there’s a wonderful little gem hidden in the tempest of summer and such a gem is today’s film Nerve.

The story for Nerve is one that’s very exciting and also has a nice bit of intelligence to it. The story follows Vee, a young woman who is one the cusp of graduating high school. Vee is incredibly cautionary and chooses to sit on the side and watch life pass her by so, after being an argument with her best friend, joins Nerve a social media competition where people must accept whatever insane dare is given to win cash prizes until only one remains. The use of social media and smart phone technology plays heavily in the story. Players have to film themselves doing whatever dare they’re given while watchers, who are everywhere, also film. This leads to some really nice moments of cinematography which gives certain scenes a frightening sense of realism. But that’s not all the concept is for though, you see the use of social media is used as a cautionary tale in Nerve and one that gets what it’s trying to say and who it’s audience is. Earlier this summer Money Monster used a similar concept but was clearly just Jodie Foster shaking her fist and saying “Oooo kids these days and their social media!”. Nerve is different, it knows how much social media and technology play into today’s culture and how something that can bring people together can also create people who wish to cause others embarrassment and harm without being known or punished. This is exemplified in the finale when Vee states that it’s easy to do horrible things that could destroy peoples lives when you don the mask of anonymity (both metaphorically and literally). This is the aspect of Nerve that wants you to know that it’s being serious and how frightening this technology can be in the wrong hands. The other half? Well early in Vee’s adventure she meets Ian a young man also playing Nerve. After one encounter the watchers want them to team up and from there it’s a series of dares that range from comical and lighthearted to life threatening and tense. In each case I found myself thoroughly invested. The lighter moments are very amusing and do well to establish the relationship between Vee and Ian. The more dangerous dares, however, are what drew me in further. The dangerous dares are high octane and exciting, we know very well that the two will be alright but thanks to some splendid cinematography and directing these moments do have a strong sense of danger to them and since the film only lets up on them for a little bit in between there’s always a sense of kinetic energy throughout the film. My only criticism with the story is the finale. Though it’s tense and a little thought provoking the ending is very similar to The Hunger Games in many ways. However, this isn’t a big critique since the finale was well done and exciting and did in a few minutes what Hunger Games couldn’t do in two hours: be good. With a smart concept and a mix of humor and danger the story for Nerve alone is enough to recommend this film.

The characters for Nerve are likable

Vee is a relateable character. Early in the film she was content with not taking risks, with not trying new things and just letting life pass her by. Honestly how many of us can compare with that? To stay with the safety of familiarity and knowing that you won’t get hurt? But once Vee joins Nerve she becomes a more engaging and even something of an inspiring character as she does things in one night that she never dreamed she’d do. And as the stakes grew more dire I found myself rooting for her more and more, all I wanted was to see her succeed.

Ian is an interesting character. What seems to be a typical love interest character at first gives way to a mysterious character with a pretty good back story. Despite his jovial and kind nature I found myself not trusting Ian and wondered if he was going to be a secret villain. It’s writing like that which makes for an interesting character.

The supporting cast really adds to the story and the world of Nerve. Sydney, Vee’s best friend, is self centered and conceited and throughout the film we see her competing in Nerve and grow more and more jealous as Vee overtakes her and becomes more popular. This leads to some good moments with her trying a dare that could kill her and finally fighting with Vee. Tommy is another of Vee’s friends and though he cares for her and goes to great lengths to help her an aspect of his character bothers me. It’s clear he likes Vee but she doesn’t feel the same. Not only does this not go anywhere but the concept of a man and woman being friends but one likes the other annoys me to no end. Can’t a man and a woman just simply be good friends and that’s that? Lastly there’s Ty another player who shows up every now and again. Late in the film we learn that he’s actually a very important character and like Ian is really interesting. The problem is that throughout the film he would just show up and either do a dare or simply exist so while he eventually becomes a really cool character his importance is swept under the rug for the first two acts.

Acting for Nerve is well done

Emma Roberts does a fine job as Vee. Roberts gives a fresh performance as Vee, being quiet and keeping to herself early on while slowly becoming more and more energetic and outgoing as the film goes on. It’s just nice to see her not play a cruel and mean spirited character for a change.

It’s really nice to see Dave Franco get more lead roles rather then the supporting and small stuff he’s gotten through the years.  In Nerve he proves further that he can be a good lead as his performance is very enjoyable and he does well alongside Emma Roberts.

When it comes to the supporting cast the best from them seems to come during the third act. Emily Meade does pretty well throughout but her best is in the third act when she has her conflict with Emma Roberts. Colson Baker, who plays Ty, gives his best during the finale itself. There are even some big names who just go underused throughout like Kimiko Glenn, Juliette Lewis and Samira Wiley who (in order) just shout, mug at the camera and works on a keyboard.

Some of the most interesting things about Nerve are it’s cinematography, lighting and overall style. The cinematography is well done overall and often times creative. The camera manages to capture the fastest moments of the film well and keeps everything in shot perfectly while at times it will go into a view from a phone which adds a sense of realism and adds to the direness of the situation. Nerve has an interesting use of lighting throughout. It constantly uses splashes or all out douses of neon lights and colors that adds a sort of surrealness to the film and lends more to the technology aspect of it. The film also does that thing where the contents of a person’s phone are enlarged next to them so we can see what they see and hanging shots of the city show where certain players are. This is trend that some movies have been doing which often seems silly and out of place but here it works in the film’s favor.

Final Thoughts: I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Nerve. The story is really engaging and energetic and the film uses the concept of social media as a plot device and a cautionary tale very well. The dares scenes are a nice blend of humor and danger, the characters are likable and the acting is good though so many people and character go underused. Overall it is a very entertaining film and a nice alternative to the big films we’ve had the past few weeks,

Verdict: 4/5

About the Author

Good day to you, my name is Jonathan Gonzalez. For years I've loved movies and have been reviewing them for years, ever since I first saw Roger Ebert on Ebert and Roeper during my freshman year of high school for the first time. I am a graduate of Mercy College with a Bachelor's in Journalism and I have Asperger's Syndrome, something I am truly proud of.

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