Games of Truth or Dare still happen every day across the nation and around the world. Like everything, games evolve. The new movie Nerve shows what the evolution of Truth or Dare might look like in this hyper-connected age.
Vee, played by Emma Roberts, is a high school student getting ready to graduate and go to college. She’s been accepted to a school she really wants to go to, but can’t seem to figure out a way to tell her mother. She has a group of friends led by audacious cheerleader Sydney, and she’s mostly quiet and doesn’t cause trouble.
Sydney gets Vee involved in a new game called “Nerve”, which has either watchers or participants. While people expect Vee to sign up as a watcher, instead she agrees to take on dares. With each completed dare, which must be filmed on the player’s phone, the player earns money. The catch is, if they bail or fail, they lose all the money they’ve earned. The game has territories, and in order to win, a player must be the last person standing in their territory. The game runs for a finite amount of time. The risks of the dares escalates, and the dares are proposed and selected by the watchers, who are anonymous.
Vee’s initial dare seems mostly harmless. She is supposed to kiss a stranger in a particular diner. When she does, she begins a journey that becomes both harrowing and dangerous. She wants to walk away from the game, but in order to do so, she’ll have to end Nerve for good.
The concept of a teenager playing a video or online game and getting in over their heads is nothing new. For that matter, teenagers playing a game and getting into trouble with it also isn’t new. Nerve is just the latest in a long lien of cautionary tales against recklessness and social pressure.
What this movie does differently is tying in the paranoia of being spied on by your own technology and the constant press of social media teens experience today. The sinister mob mentality take over of a group of people watching their favorite players and manipulating them in the real world in real time is the stuff of nightmares. In Nerve, players can’t tell who’s watching them and who isn’t. The cell phone becomes an instrument of terror as the game takes over the device.
How often does the average person mindlessly purchase and activate an app without bothering to read any of the fine print? I’ve done it. Chances are you’ve done it, too. It’s alarming to realize how much personal information people keep in their phones, especially when it comes to teenagers. That phone is practically their life, and in the wrong hands, the phone would prove to be a treasure beyond reckoning. Data from other accounts, information about friends and family, shopping histories, and any number of other useful tidbits about a person’s life are stored for convenience.
Nerve plays on the fear of what the kids are doing when their parents aren’t watching. In Vee’s case, however, her mother, played by Juliet Lewis, is paying attention. Despite knowing something is going wrong, Vee’s mom is powerless to do anything about it.
Nerve is a decent thriller. There’s nothing new or highly original for movie-goers to see here, though teens and tweens will likely be less jaded with regard to the story line. That said, the story is well written. The suspense builds as the dares escalate and the watchers get more savage as they put the players through their paces. It becomes easy for the watchers to forget players are actual human beings with real emotions, while the players themselves are trying to get the most number of watchers, making Nerve the most dangerous popularity contest committed to film. The screens between them add distance, even when a player is being watched by a close friend in the same room with them. There’s detachment from both sides of the screen.
The nice thing is, when Vee realizes she’s in over her head, she does something about it. Vee is no wilting wallflower. She doesn’t cry or whine about the circumstances. The most refreshing thing about the movie is Vee takes full responsibility for her own actions. She recognizes she signed on to play Nerve without asking too many questions. She also tries to be responsible and do the common sense thing when she wants to stop playing. Vee isn’t an airhead. She isn’t helpless. She doesn’t wait for a guy or her mom to bail her out of the mess. She never once does a worryingly stupid or dangerous thing without thinking first. Vee behaves like a normal teenaged girl. She takes action.
Parents and audiences definitely need to be aware, this movie is full of stupid and dangerous stunts. Some of the characters do illegal things. There’s some brief nudity. Nerve is the kind of movie a parent should probably watch with their kid and have some conversations about, because the movie does offer some good insight about peer pressure and social media. It’s probably best for older teens.
Seeing a character like Vee taking control of the situation is great for anyone looking for female characters who are tired of damsels in distress.