In an age of viral videos and reality TV, it’s not surprising that a film like ‘Nerve’ would come to be. The basic premise is strong: a new “I dare you” type of game is sweeping the web and while, at least at first, it seems pretty innocuously fun (“Kiss a stranger!”), things get progressively darker as livestream Watchers dare Players into increasingly dangerous tasks. What could go wrong?
Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman set out to answer that question. The film is fine – it accomplishes its goal of outlining the harshness of humanity when people can act anonymously (i.e. voting people to hurt themselves or others) – but ‘Nerve’ doesn’t really go beyond meeting basic expectations here. The actors are…fine? The plot beats are…fine? The action is also…fine? But nothing really grabs you by the lapels and shakes you out of popcorn complacency.
That’s not to say the movie isn’t enjoyable. Emma Roberts (“Vee”) and Dave Franco (“Ian”) mostly sell us on their viral-video-dare team up. They’ve got a bit of chemistry going and it’s strongest when the characters are having fun together. Things go off the rails a bit when the stakes raise, but the earlier interactions do well to help you care about these people prior. There are also some really interesting observations here about how hiding behind the cloak of the Internet can make even good people go bad. Other films have done this better (‘Disconnect,’ we’re looking at your) but the message is an important one nowadays.
‘Nerve’ is definitely worth a watch though you may want to wait for VOD or rental. There isn’t enough in this film to really justify the added cost of checking it out in theaters – unless of course you’re in the mood to catch a flick and nothing else really strikes a nerve.