Release date: 11th August 2016/Watch the trailer here
Nerve is just about as generic a film as you’re going to watch this summer. Emma Roberts is high school senior Vee (short for Venus – of course), who, fed up of being told that she never steps out of her comfort zone by her (frankly, awful) friends, decides to join an online game of truth or dare known as ‘Nerve’. The game gives you the option of being either a ‘watcher’ or a ‘player’ – the anonymous watchers pay money to come up with dares and observe them being carried out, while the players must complete these dares in return for money. If they ‘bail’ or ‘fail’ then they’re out of the game – and, as Vee is ominously warned, ‘snitches get stitches’.
Her first dare is simple – go to a diner and kiss a stranger for five seconds. There, she meets Ian (Dave Franco), another Nerve player. The watchers apparently love seeing Vee and Ian together, and so they are sent on various dares together for increasing sums of money – the dares ranging from as harmless as trying on a $4,000 dress, to letting Ian pick out a tattoo for Vee, to reaching 60mph on Ian’s motorcycle – while blindfolded.
Nerve is at its best and most interesting as these dares unfold. The film becomes as addictive as the game itself: the audience are watchers, unable to look away from the players on screen. It’s all completely ridiculous, of course, and the futuristic feel of the film – all neon lights, energetic soundtrack and technology that definitely doesn’t exist just yet – is confusing considering that it’s clearly supposed to be set in the present day.
Even so, it’s ridiculous fun, until it goes completely off the rails in the third act, when the sinister goings-on that have been hinted at throughout the film are finally brought to light. The result is a far-fetched Hunger Games-style finale, completely lacking in the fun and tension of earlier in the film – unless some unrealistic movie-style computer hacking is your thing, because there’s plenty of that to roll your eyes at.
It’s not as cool as it likes to think it is and it’s more silly than it means to be, but Nerve isn’t all bad. It packs enough punches in its 96-minute run-time to keep you (mostly) entertained, but it doesn’t manage to do much more than that in terms of characters, plot or a more meaningful look at the voyeuristic tendencies of today’s internet.