– CIM #1012 – “Nerve” – 96 mins. – release: July 27th, 2016 –
I arrive at the lab and take a seat in the blindingly bright processing room among my fellow guinea pigs… each of them in a world of their own, faces buried in their mobile devices. One of them Snapchats video of the technicians, another flicks digital Pokeballs at a white tile wall in the corner. Unless you’re totally off the grid, the internet is an extension of consciousness and connectivity is a borderline requirement. That’s why I love the cimulator; no phones allowed. I leave my cell behind and strap in for Nerve, a new thriller that pushes the concept of social networks to the breaking point.
The cim starts and power overwhelms me, for I am the internet, an omnipotent world-wide-web of knowledge and influence. I am an information super-highway, and if you’ve got the right drivers installed, the ride is open. However, when you’re online, I’m on you… watching your every click and keystroke, absorbing all loads both up and down. And right now I’m peering through the desktop of Vee Delmonico, a shy high school senior struggling with her post-grad plans. Vee video chats with Sydney, her wild-child best friend who is steadily climbing rank in an underground online game called Nerve.
Being the internet, you can imagine an endless shit-storm of throwaway content floating through my airwaves, and in fact you may be reading some right now, but Nerve is a league of its own. It’s an interactive game of dares for cash, hidden away in the darkest recesses of the web, where users can pick one of two roles. The players take on increasingly difficult challenges and win money wired through me directly into their bank account. On the flip side, for the low price of $19.99, the watchers can stream live video of the players, troll the chat, and throw big bucks towards careless, insane dares.
By default, I am a watcher. I view everything, and it’s fairly entertaining to watch people do tricks for a bit of fleeting fame and fortune. Embarrassing yourself is one thing, breaking the law is another, and risking your life… well that usually gets the most hits, and everyone wants to make it to the finals and win a massive payout. For some daredevils, playing Nerve is just for the thrills, but when Vee enters the game, she’s in it to prove that she can throw caution to the wind. So when her phone buzzes and instructs her to kiss a stranger for a cool hundo, she ponies up and smooches a seemingly random dude.
Of course he’s not just a random dude. Ian is playing Nerve as well, and instant chemistry aside, his meeting with Vee is not as coincidental as it seems. But the watchers have spoken. We all want more of the double-dog duo. Together they ride off on Ian’s bike into the night, through the streets of New York, taking every challenge in stride. As the game continues, things intensify. It’s not just Vee and Ian in over there heads, but the entire anonymous community of Nerve fans, all fueling a dangerous competition under the invisible grip of mutual online addiction and reckless programmer masterminds.
I unplugged from the cimulator and powered on my phone. Everything’s easier when you’re wired in, but Nerve was a good example of how both exciting and threatening the web can be. Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who brought us the eerie online dating escapade Catfish, offer with Nerve a fun and realistic look at the unpredictably perilous nature of modern internet culture. Despite occasionally falling back on some cliché character devices, often involving overly charming or irritating young hipsters, I’d say take a chance on Nerve for some twisty, eye-opening, online adventure.