Nerve is, in effect, Truth or Dare: The Movie without a shred of truth. It’s hard to buy the concept that young people would risk life, limb and financial ruin for one night of fame… OK, maybe not, but Nerve takes the metaphor ad absurdum. Crucially, this does not diminish the film.
A hyperbolic parable on peer pressure, emphasis on the hyper, our tween leads rush around New York at breakneck pace, bathed in neon. Nerve is a nimble 90 minutes, remaining almost entirely frictionless throughout the runtime as viewers are sucked in by Roberts’ and Franco’s charisma. As the dares escalate and this couple’s fates are forcibly intertwined, their magnetism carries the film; they are otherwise lacking believability.
Nerve‘s unresolvable weakness is the “villain”, for what there is. While the film’s message goes to great pains to tell us that that the nastiness is inside us all, that the Internet allows, nay encourages, our vicious sides, the game is run by an unconvincing gang of sadistic crypto-anarchists found on the corner of Mr. Robot and The Purge.
The critique of modern culture plays visually as more than just a gimmick, with omnipresent cellphones offering multiple points of view, heat-of-the-moment shaky-cam and, at its peak, dizzying first-person perspectives. This comes off as inventive and, most importantly, fun.
Play along with the preposterous premise and you’ll enjoy the game. Nerve is unabashedly schlocky, but brilliantly so – and that’s the truth.
Engaging, enjoyable and even a bit enlightening, Nerve plays its cards right all the way. The film successfully holds the courage of its convictions and dares to send a message to modern insta-celebrity culture whilst maintaining a sense of fun as it builds tension through and between pulse-raising stunts.
CAST: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Emily Meade, Miles Heizer, Machine Gun Kelly
DIRECTORS: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
WRITERS: Jessica Sharzer (screenplay), Jeanne Ryan (novel)
SYNOPSIS: A high school senior finds herself immersed in an online game of truth or dare, where her every move starts to become manipulated by an anonymous community of “watchers.”