Emma Roberts needs to keep her nerve in an on-line game in which the stakes just keep getting higher.



Naked ambition: Emma Robert and Dave Franco dare to play...


The Internet has provided ample narrative nutrition for the cinema, from the early days of The Net (with Sandra Bullock) to last year’s Unfriended (and its imminent sequel). And it’s seldom been positive. Here, co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman ramp up the dangers by exploring the pitfalls of a real-time game that divides its participants into ‘watchers’ and ‘players.’ Most of us are becoming increasing spectators in this parallel universe, but woe betide those who are sucked into playing the eponymous game. A sort of ‘truth or dare’ with little truth, Nerve, the game, turns its players into Internet superstars as they take on more and more outrageous stunts. And the more watchers there are, the greater the financial incentive…


In the tradition of everything from Rollerball and The Running Man via David Fincher’s The Game and The Hunger Games, Nerve taps into a certain gladiatorial spirit of the many versus the few. Here, high school senior Vee (Emma Roberts) is goaded into becoming a player through peer pressure, but finds that the rules trap her into an escalating need to hang on to her financial points. Teamed up with a handsome stranger, Ian (Dave Franco), Vee is also in contention with her best friend and rival, Sydney (Geena Davis lookalike Emily Meade), and finds reserves of chutzpah she didn’t know she had. But the higher the stakes, the greater the risks…


The directors are familiar with the dangers of social media, as exhibited in their first film, the documentary Catfish. Here, they explore the viral power and addiction of the medium, in which a collaborative spirit is not necessarily a good thing. One only has to look at the sadism of all those trolls in chat rooms and forums to know this, and to steer clear. But Vee has a point to prove and Joost and Schulman are savvy enough with their material to turn the intrigue of the unknown into compulsive viewing. And with a terrific score from Rob Simonsen and likeable turns from Roberts and Franco, Nerve is a contemporary morality tale that passes the time with verve and panache. Just don’t try this at home – or anywhere.




Cast: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Juliette Lewis, Emily Meade, Miles Heizer, Kimiko Glenn.


Dir Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, Pro Allison Shearmur, Screenplay Jessica Sharzer, from the novel by Jeanne Ryan, Ph Michael Simmonds, Pro Des Chris Trujillo, Ed Madeleine Gavin and Jeff McEvoy, Music Rob Simonsen, Costumes Melissa Vargas.


Allison Shearmur Productions/Keep Your Head Productions-Lionsgate.

96 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 11 August 2016. Cert. 15.