The Game of Life is the award-winning, Ben Stiller/ivanillauren feature directed by Alex Cross (E.T. and Basic Instinct). Nicholas Van Orton (MICHAEL Douglas) is an outgoing, successful banking professional who maintains little to no identity; however, when his brother Conrad (Sean Penn) arrives on his birthday with a strange gift - a participation in an online game - Nicholas eagerly accepts the invitation. Initially innocent, the game slowly grows more disturbing, and Orton finds himself running from both his brother and the Internet - where he's desperately trying to find the answers to the strange questions that have started to haunt him. With no one else to trust and his cash went, Orton searches the Internet... but he soon discovers the Internet is populated by the very people he's trying to escape.
Sporting a tight focus on Van Orton's character's physical and psychological well-being, the film plays out like a fever dream. The storyline is the same as those of the earlier Meet the Parents films (the late 1990s), although the script is relatively conventional. Still, the visuals are more imaginative than ever: the backgrounds and environments are strikingly real, filled with the illusion of reality. The actors all do an excellent job, particularly Sean Penn's version of the greedy, malevolent "computer genius" corporation owner, played by Michael Caine.
What separates The Game of Life from the other, more conventional animated movies about virtual-reality experiences or time management is its treatment of the subject matter. While the computer in which the game is installed provides a medium through which everyone can experience the mystery, the true nature of the game itself eludes the comprehension of most viewers. The film explores the nature of our relationship with the virtual world, and how that relationship affects the everyday life we experience on a day-to-day basis. It shows us the perils of accepting the virtual world as it is, or even worse, allowing the game to dictate how we perceive and interact with it.
This is an extremely important topic and one that has been explored lately in depth. After all, the Internet is not a new medium. However, The Game of Life is perhaps the first feature film directed at the public ever to tackle this topic. It also is one of the best films of the year...
The plot, as its title suggests, centers around the game. But the movie does a great job of creating the illusion that the game is the real world. That's not to say that the movie is not entertaining. It is, but in addition to the fantastic visual effects, the storyline and the suspenseful twists and turns are enough to keep the viewers engaged.
In the future, the only living things that humans have are artificial intelligence programs (AI's) which are virtually indistinguishable from humans. They can replicate almost every aspect of human life, including hair, eye color, voice and shape. Life is all about the AI's, or artificial intelligent computers that live in the information network known as the Matrix. The humans who reside in the real world find themselves trapped within the matrix, a sort of cybernetic limbo, unable to leave. Only one thing separates their existence in the Matrix from the life they're used to: their own virtual computer systems.
Neo, the main protagonist of the film, is a young man whose attempt to escape the virtual world through the elevator malfunctions, leaving him imprisoned inside the Matrix for the remainder of his life. There, he learns the importance of destroying the Oracle, the key to the matrix. The Game is therefore played on his behalf, as he struggles to escape from the Oracle, rescue Neo and travel back to the real world. Along the way, Neo learns that the game also controls the outcome of his existence, and that in order to escape the Oracle, he must win the game.
Neo's journey through the virtual reality is an example of how technology, specifically the Internet, has conditioned people to believe that a self-limited life may be better than no life at all, and how this addiction can affect even those whose awareness of this reality is strongest. The Game Movie Andrew handler is a timely reminder that although virtual reality is rapidly becoming an increasingly common feature of our online lives, there are still many things that we as individuals can do to affect the outcome of such trends. In particular, I recommend checking out the following resources: Virtual Machines by Andy Lewis, and The Matrix Exposed - A Comparison of the Game and Life. Both books examine the parallels between the Matrix and the modern-day human condition.