Wednesday, 17 August 2016

REVIEW - NERVE (HENRY JOOST AND ARIEL SCHULMAN)


If changing the game from within is a dubious process, it at least ensures a level of expertise far more advanced than your rivals' - literally without. Catfish creators Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman bring such skills to Nerve, giving a thin concept with a fast-approaching sell-by date the perfect artistic edge to align with its most topical themes. Joost and Schulman crucially have their fingers on the pulse of pop culture, engaging with it with earnestness and understanding, thus legitimizing the film's creative and ideological stances. Nevertheless, it's that which begat those stances - the story - that eventually comes to define Nerve's quality; strewn with the kind of contrivances wholly expected from teen thrillers, and altogether too much high-octane hysteria, it's surprising how much the film is actually able to overcome its issues, though never in full. The hammy climactic sequence may be a letdown compared to a film that had previously built and built into a very involving game of raise-the-stakes, but it's admirable in that, unlike most similar films, it carries the film's core thematic concerns through to a fitting, inventive conclusion; most would just abandon them to focus on tiresome scenes of violence and mayhem. Joost and Schulman can't find any way to stage it satisfactorily, but they fare better elsewhere, making genuinely good use of familiar visual representations of a digital landscape, and exploiting the thriller-related aspects excellently - one or two of the dares could easily claim to be the most nerve-wracking scenes of the year, appropriately.