Released: 22nd February 2018 (Australia)
Seen: 25th February 2018
“Max is very competitive, as am I”
For married couple Max (Played by Jason Bateman) and Annie (Played by Rachel McAdams), nothing matters more than a good competition. They regularly host a game night with their good friends Kevin (Played by Lamorne Morris), Michelle (Played by Kylie Bunbury), Ryan (Played by Billy Magnussen) and whatever Instagram model Ryan has decided to date that week. This weeks game night is going to be different than normal thanks to Max’s brother, Brooks (Played by Kyle Chandler), who has decided to plan a murder mystery party with his fancy new car as the grand prize. THAT plan changes pretty abruptly when actual kidnappers turn up and kidnap Brooks and now the group of friends, along with Ryan’s ringer date Sarah (Played by Sharon Horgan) must find Brooks and save him… after all, how else are they going to win the game?
Game Night is proof of just how important a consistent tone is when doing a comedy. Right from the opening credits, you’re let in that this film is going to be stylish and dark. Charming moments like the avoiding the neighbour Gary (Played by Jesse Plemons) by having the guest come in through the window, even though they were specifically told not too, let the audience ease into the style of comedy that we’re going to be dealing with so that when the inciting incident happens and the actual major plot starts, we’re well acclimated to the tone that this film will be delivering and thus it’s easier to laugh at a lot of their more extreme jokes. That tonal consistency and the slow ramping up of the dark element in the humour is so perfectly handled that it’s almost scientific. By the time we get to the end and everything is absolutely insane, it’s easy to along with it because we’ve worked up to it. Contrast this to something like The House where they tried to do a similar dark humour, but only in certain scenes and with no consistency so it just didn’t work as well as this film does.
“Someone in this room is going to be taken”
The cast that was assembled for this movie is genuinely amazing and transforms the material they’ve got. Jason Bateman as the lovable Max is a charming lead that holds the movie together. He’s very much a lesser version of his brother and he knows it, but he’s lucky to have his wife as his support. Rachel McAdams is also endlessly charming as Annie, filling her with this adorable enthusiasm for competition that is constant. Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury as Kevin & Michelle have some incredible chemistry that makes them easily believable as childhood sweethearts and makes their squabble about a celebrity Michelle may have slept with one of the comic highlights. Billy Magnussen’s Ryan character is absolutely precious and must be protected. Sure, he’s an idiot who believes everything he reads on Buzzfeed and couldn’t win a game night on his own if his life literally depended on it but he’s also the most bright-eyed innocent character in the movie and his childlike charm is so fun. It’s lucky that he is so charming because Sharon Horgan’s Sarah would probably not put up with him for long if he wasn’t, her biting attitude is a nice contrast that gives some comedic highlights including her explanation of why she’s still hanging out with everyone despite not knowing anyone.
The interactions between the main six characters create some of the best moments in the film, they all bounce off each other effortlessly and it makes complete sense why they would get so invested in their game nights that they don’t even realise that the game is actually just a real kidnapping. This feels like a real group of friends and when they have wonderfully awkward moments, like the scene where they all have to go to see their neighbour Gary, it’s a fun dynamic. It also helps that Jesse Plemons is the creepiest character in every one of his scenes and it’s delightful seeing him making everyone squirm with just a look.
“We’re taking game night up a notch”
What amazed me most about this film, the thing that set it apart from a lot of other similar comedies, is this films embracing of style. From transition shots done on miniatures that look like they are part of a board game to tracking shots during car chases as though we’re watching a video game to a single shot game of keep-away, these very specific shot choices give the tone a unique feel. Everything pivots right back to the idea of a game night and the shot choices match that. They try to make the most mundane things exciting just by how the camera shows it. The unlocking of a door is one of the most clever shots in the film, that’s how intent the film is to impress you. I genuinely love that they were willing to do things like the miniatures or the carpet that looks like a backgammon board, little details like that help give this movie it’s own special feel.
While there are a few times when the jokes fall a little flat or the performances linger on a single note for too long, for the vast majority of the film everything is so on point that it’s hard to find much fault with what is going on. The guys who directed this film are also the ones who will be directing the upcoming Flashpoint movie… that tiny piece of information is enough for me to have some mild hope for that movie, because what they did with this one was so good that maybe they’ll be the ones to make the second good DC film.
Game Night is one of the most fun comedies I’ve seen in a fair while. Filled with clever dark moments intermixed with a great story and genuinely great performances, it’s one that’s hard to find much to dislike. The rare kind of comedy that should absolutely be seen on the big screen because it’s as much of a visual delight as it is a comedic one, so after you’re done seeing Black Panther for the 13th time, this will be a lovely alternative.