An online network of players attempt dares for financial rewards from anonymous watchers – it’s like Pokémon Go, but with death instead of ten trillion Pidgeys.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Based on the book of the same name, Nerve follows the nightmarish night of Venus (Emma Roberts) who is embarrassed by her catty friend, and hastily decides to become a Nerve player under the username Vee. Not the most believable motivation from the level-headed main character, at least when compared to the more reasonable option of sulking at home and posting nebulous messages on Facebook like a normal teenager. Her first dare compels her to literally throw herself at handsome stranger, Ian (Dave Franco), causing them to become partnered in the high-stakes world of Nerve.
Although starting with virtually no drive or urgency, Nerve fixes this in seconds with a quick montage of other Nerve players’ recordings. This instantly injects foreboding dread into the story, hinting at the pathway Vee and Ian will chaotically spiral down.
Vee’s character methodically builds in conjunction with each dare the two are given. The initial kiss a stranger dare, lasting longer than the mandatory time limit, and a blindfolded motorcycle ride catalytically create romance and trust between the two. Even the expensive green dress that Vee is dared to try on could be symbolic of her wearing her decisions.
Even though the floating phone messages and camera POV shots jar with the rest of the simplistic cinematography, they, alongside an ambient soundtrack and sterile lighting, set the mood of Vee being forced into a world much larger and deadly than she could have imagined. Vee and Ian are filmed, encouraged, mocked and recognised everywhere, culminating into a climax that, although goofy, gives us the stunning image of countless phones pointing at them like an ocean of eyes. Excluding a preachy speech, Nerve flawlessly illustrates the unnerving vulnerability of modern social media.
Aside from her petulant reasons for joining Nerve in the first place, Vee is a sympathetic character with an intense spotlight on her that even Ian’s boyish charm fails to bask in. This is Vee’s story, and it’s not shared by anything or anyone else. Supporting characters are easily forgotten when not on screen and Vee’s college plans and Mother are both brushed aside before jolting back during the tail end of the story.
What’s chilling about the concept of Nerve is that not only could it be a reality tomorrow – the movie even takes place in one day – but with the popularity of Blip, Vimeo, YouTube partnerships, Vines and even reality shows, it’s essentially already happening, albeit with fewer splattered corpses… for now. This is my favourite kind of movie to discuss, for the simple fact that its problems are obvious and can be counted on one hand. Nerve is beyond engrossing and a perfect display of the dangers of having your information online, so much so that I’m almost tempted to smash my computer right now and go live in the woods.
Nerve is available in Australian cinemas from September 1st
Image courtesy of Roadshow Films