'NERVE' film review: Loud, Fast and Full On

The saying “well, that escalated quickly” has never been more befitting of a film than new action/thriller blockbuster, Nerve.

Staring Hollywood’s golden kids Dave Franco and Emma Roberts (each the second coming for their family - Dave's older brother James and Emma's aunt Julia are both Hollywood heavyweights), Nerve tells the story of high school senior Vee, who breaks away from her sheltered life to prove to her friends – and herself – that she’s not as boring as everyone thinks she is. Within one night, she finds herself immersed in an online game of truth or dare (without the truth) called Nerve. The "game" involves a community of online watchers who dream up and reward a series of increasingly risky dares for the game’s players, all documented in real time online. Soon Vee finds herself in deeper than she ever thought possible, her life controlled by a group of anonymous watchers who determine her every move.

This film speaks directly to the generation always on the go, and always on their phones. In fact, Nerve couldn’t possibly come at a more apt moment, as we are seeing the likes of Pokémon Go dominating daily life, and kids risking their lives just to get the perfect selfie from atop skyscrapers, the Golden Gate Bridge and other such insane spots… just for internet fame and followers. (Check out the below images which show one such social media star's anxiety-inducing shots)

The line between real life and virtual reality lived through a screen is becoming increasingly blurry, and it is to this generation that Nerve poses the question: When does our interaction with the online world stop being fun, and start being dangerous? It suggests that while seemingly harmless at the outset, the way we let unseen, unknown people influence and control us is in fact far from harmless; that when we are offline is the only time we are ultimately safe.

Putting all this aside though, Nerve is actually just a really great watch. It’s the kind of movie you go to the cinema to see; action-packed, loud, fast and full on. It sets your heart racing, and keeps it that way throughout. Taking place almost entirely over the course of just one night, neon lights and urban landscapes create a futuristic nocturnal vision of New York City, part dreamland, part nightmare. While I’m sure it wouldn’t be for everyone, I loved the style in which Nerve was filmed. We view half the film either through mobile video footage (lags, pixels and all) as players are recorded attempting dares, or from the face of a computer or phone screen. Messages, dares and bank transfers are shown to us in frame as the action continues, keeping the pace quick, the story moving, and the actions of characters logical without requiring time and dialogue to explain anything. Moving on!

As outrageous as the idea behind Nerve is, it’s not exactly a stretch of the imagination given current internet and social trends. It asks Vee and simultaneously us the viewer, ‘Are you a watcher or a player?’ in this game that is the online world. You might think you know the answer, or at least know what you want to be, but just give Nerve a watch… it may change your mind. This is definitely one for the adrenaline junkies, the risk takers, and the wild child in us all.

4.5 stars from me!

In UK cinemas August 12

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