Every now and then a movie turns up that really embraces the technology of the era and Nerve undoubtedly hits the spot of now. In the spirit of the likes of Hackers, Swordfish and possibly even The Matrix, directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (who also brought us Catfish) have dived deep inside the modern world to offer up something that has the edges of familiarity but is actually a whole lot of fun.
Nerve is based on the novel by Jeanne Ryan, with a screenplay from Jessica Sharzer, and sees Emma Roberts playing sensible and smart Vee, an everyday girl who is pressured into signing up for a dubious online game where people can either watch… or play but what does that ‘play’ mean? It means take on dares that get more and more extreme. While initially it’s Vee’s friend Sydney (Emily Meade) who’s the one having all the fun, there becomes a moment when Vee is motivated to sign up as a Player and it all begins. While her first challenge is simply to kiss a stranger, who is Ian (Dave Franco), after that it gets more and more risky and so Nerve ramps up the tension and find clever suspense in various ways.
Dave Franco and Emma Roberts are smart leads with natural chemistry, even if approaching the events from very different places, and while we don’t really know the intentions of Ian (Franco) to begin with, they work well and bring a good connection to the narrative. Emily Meade is also a strong up and coming co-star, plus it’s always good to see Juliette Lewis on screen, this time playing the role of Vee’s mother.
Despite the obvious positive sides of social media, this is a world that does contain ill-advised YouTube peer pressure videos and so Nerve occasionally becomes a comment on a generation that wants to show off all the time. Whether it’s selling themselves on Instagram, Snapchat or streaming live on Facebook there’s always a bad edge of technology. So while there’s this flipside hanging in the balance, you end up knowing that the very thin lines between reality and fiction will begin to blur.
Nerve is undoubtedly of the moment and it’d be interesting to see how it stands the test of time but much like Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, it poses interesting questions about the nature of technology and the lengths some people might go to, even if they don’t think about the consequences to begin with. So although you know what’s coming in places, it still successfully offers up pieces of a bigger thrill ride and does it proficiently with a lot of neon and an absolute killer soundtrack.