It’s surprising how good “Nerve” is because it’s main centerpiece involves risky stunts that I worried would become the crutch for the film’s narrative. Instead it becomes a crucial element in helping to explore the characters that we’re introduced to during the course of the film. Feeling like a technological twist on David Fincher’s “The Game,” and while it has nothing new to say about the internet (everyone has phones! Everyone is always watching someone!), it still comes out a winner when the credits close.
Emma Roberts plays Vee, a high school graduate preparing for college who is afraid to leave her mom after the death of her older brother two years earlier. Terrified of taking chances, she learns that her best friend Sydney is a part of a worldwide viral game called “Nerve.” You’re called upon to become a watcher, where you get to witness stunts and dares that become increasingly dangerous, or you can be a player. The player has to dive in to any dare that the public hands them. If they win, they get money wired in to their savings, if they bail out, they lose and their money disappears.
When Vee signs up to become a player, she realizes this somewhat mischevious game of chicken gradually isn’t so much f anymore, as one moment she’s finding a stranger to kiss for five seconds, and the next she’s straddling a ladder between two high rises. “Nerve” uses its stunts as great plot devices, moving the story along and testing the wills and personality of our characters. When Vee meets a mysterious guy named Ian, as played by Dave Franco, things get increasingly complicated when the public demands they begin sharing dares. As I said, “Nerve” doesn’t have a new statement about the internet.
We know anyone will do anything for money. We know with enough fans anyone will put themselves in danger. What works is the execution with some great moments of nail biting tension, and sharp editing. I also enjoyed the performances all around, especially by Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, and Emilh Meade. “Nerve” is an above average, often exciting tech thriller, and one I wish more people sought out, if only for the ladder scene.