Nerve isn’t an amazingly innovative, cerebral science fiction film. But it does have an intriguingly original albeit absurd premise that is pertinent to this age of apps, social media, MMORPGs, and Internet anonymity. And by having a fast-paced, satisfactory execution, it made itself the best movie I’ve seen that explores such themes, as well as be an effective cautionary tale on the kind of culture that could evolve from them.
The movie centers on a timid high school senior named Vee (Emma Roberts) who finally has enough of living a life that’s afraid of taking risks by signing up to join Nerve, a popular underground online game which makes its players conduct a gauntlet of dares, in which money is rewarded for every dare accepted and accomplished, but earnings are revoked whenever a player bails out from doing a challenge. Her first challenge is kissing a random stranger named Ian (Dave Franco), who happens to be a Nerve player also. Vee and Ian then have to team up to conduct a series of dares. But as the game goes further on, it intensifies into something more sinister, as the two find themselves in a situation where the dares are no longer merely mischievous but deadly, and backing out is no longer an option.
Again, Nerve isn’t an excellent movie at all. Though it does have the potential to be smarter and more impactful, it only manages to have an enough amount of thoughtfulness and stylishness to inch past the “not a mediocre movie” threshold. The narrative is untidy at times, and the characters and plot devices are clichéd. I was hoping to have my mind blown, but the plot twists were serviceable.
Nevertheless, Nerve presents a valid critique of its chosen themes and manages to be an effectively entertaining techno thriller. But I do wish it had been something more.