WARNING: This post may contain what readers may consider to be mild or significant spoilers, particularly when I’m discussing holes in the plot, although I will try my best to be as vague as I can.
Where to begin with this one? I think the first thing that comes to mind, is that I think this movie is perfect for high school audiences. I think this is something I would have watched at that time of my life; maybe even late middle school, like eighth grade or something. Anyone older might potentially not enjoy this one as much unless there’s a willingness to suspend a considerable amount of belief and ignore glaring plot holes (which will be detailed below).
Nerve is not only the title of this movie, but it is the name of the game being played by the main characters. Players sign up to be either a “watcher” or a “player” online, and once they do, an app mysteriously downloads and activates on the user’s phone. Nerve is a truth-or-dare game, minus the “truth” option. All players can accept are dares, and the game touts itself as a game that runs continuously, 24 hours a day. In a lot of ways, the gameplay reminded me a lot of what I’ve seen in trailers for The Purge franchise, but as a considerably more watered down version. (This may not be a fair comparison as I have not, nor do I ever plan to see any part of the franchise, so if anyone finds that statement to be inaccurate, please feel free to sound that off in the comments.)
Prior to installation, all users of the app are made aware of the game’s rules. Users are obligated not to “snitch” about the game to authorities, and must keep the game a secret. Essentially, the game relies on word-of-mouth marketing to sign up its users. This is a rule that applies to all users, regardless of whether they decide to play the game or just watch those who do. The other rules mentioned only really apply to the players. Players can accept dares for money, and if you “lose” the game, you lose everything you earn. Nerve is essentially one huge competition among all those who sign up to be “players” of the game, and in the end, there can only be one person considered the winner. So the game is sort of like the concept of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, only with much higher stakes. There are three main ways to lose the game, which is either by “bailing” (forfeiting the dare), “failing” (an inability to execute the dare successfully as instructed/running out of time on the dare), or by being a “snitch” (trying to get help from authorities, the government, etc. to stop the game).
Apparently, the app automatically analyzes everything in your phone once it installs, and it somehow has the ability to instantly grant itself access to the user’s Facebook, banking, location data, and basically any data that it can get of the user by essentially hacking his or her smartphone. This, of course, sets the stage for glaring plot hole number 2, but we’ll get there eventually.
Being a watcher is, for the most part, exactly how it sounds—they get to watch footage of their preferred player on the app carrying out whatever dare is voted for by the majority of watchers on a specific user’s “channel.” It is not clear, however, how the dare to be voted on is chosen, but apparently anyone can suggest a dare. This is glaring plot hole number 1. Players, likewise, are also almost exactly how they sound. While watchers pretty much get to sit back and “enjoy the show,” players have a more active role in the game by accepting (or in some cases, rejecting) dares. The longer the user plays, the riskier the dares tend to become.
From what I could tell, the phone app is reminiscent of several different social media platforms. The “watching” aspect reminds me an awful lot of Twitch or UStream, and the whole swiping left or right to vote “yes” or “no” on whether or not to approve a dare for a player sounds like a Tinder feature. The way watchers get involved with the app also kind of made me think of crowdsourcing apps such as Waze, and of course, there are also aspects of the “game” that is very similar to the recent Pokemon Go.
Speaking of Pokemon Go, if anyone is in doubt that the consequences of a game like Nerve could ever happen, one need look no further than at news coverage about “lures” in the game being used to execute or place individuals (sometimes even young children) at risk for crimes or crowdsourcing apps like Waze that have been used to kill individuals or attempt to change flows in traffic.
Taking a brief moment now to let readers know that for the next four paragraphs, there will be major spoilers ahead. I will warn readers when the spoilers are specifically in each paragraph, but this is just your first heads up in case you want to skip to my final thoughts on my experience with this movie.
If I am recalling correctly, all it takes is a person inputting their name and email to sign up for the service for Nerve to hack the user; however, I’m sure if the program really wanted to, they could have hacked everything, even if the individual decides not to sign up after all, just from their simply having visited the signup page. This brings us back to glaring plot hole number 2, and probably the most major spoiler of this entire entry, so if you don’t want to know it, please skip the rest of this paragraph. Apparently, by the movie’s end, it is discovered that there is no one criminal mastermind or one user to shut down, because each and every player’s phone becomes its own server, and each watcher is part of a network of “masterminds,” so to speak. Which honestly to me then begs the question of, well, who exactly is the person who was the original creator of the game that got all of this started?
This also leads us to glaring plot hole number 3, which is regarding the concept of “snitches.” Another big spoiler here, so please skip this paragraph if you don’t want to read it. The game instructs all users to keep the game a “secret,” and yet, it appears that so many people know about the game and are either actively watching or playing it. How law enforcement apparently is completely okay with staying out of preventing people from getting hurt or otherwise negatively affected by the game is beyond me, makes me wonder who it is that was able to keep their hands tied (so to speak), and makes me question how the game is still able to function as a “secret” and “by invitation only” if people are running around in hordes following their favorite “players” like amateur paparazzi without anyone asking questions.
Glaring plot holes 4 and 5 have less to do about gaps in logic (though there is still a fair amount of that) and more about a lack of fleshing out of the story, which could have been useful, but I suppose wasn’t entirely necessary to enjoy the movie overall. Yet another movie spoiler here, so if you don’t want to know, please skip from here. The suspension of belief required for glaring plot hole 4 is the fact that there is an underground society of hackers run mostly by what appear to be high school students, and they know a lot about the “dark web.” I’m sure there are a lot of brilliant young hackers out there, but I’m not sure as to the accuracy of the movie’s portrayal of the secret underground lair. Glaring plot hole 5 involves Ian (one of the main character’s) involvement (or as it turns out, re-involvement) with the game. The movie gives what I consider to be a feeble explanation as to why he’s back in the game, but I felt like the movie could have provided more detail than what was given.
As for the ending, obvious spoiler ahead—skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know anything about it, it was very Frozen (2013) in that it was a very Hans and Kristoff-esque love triangle (but not quite) situation, only in this case “Hans” didn’t eventually present himself as evil. If this confuses anyone, sorry, I am just trying to be as vague as possible here for those who don’t want to be spoiled, but find that they couldn’t resist reading this paragraph. I actually felt bad for the “Hans” in this situation, since I felt like he’d really had Vee’s back the entire time and her best interests at heart.
I am sure there are other glaring plot holes I’m missing, but those are the ones I remember clearly off the top of my head right now.
Honestly? Even with all the gaps, I still enjoyed the movie. I think this is probably the strongest role I’ve seen Dave Franco in, and I very much enjoyed him in Now You See Me (2013). I may be in the minority here, but I actually prefer his acting to his older brother’s, James Franco, and I think there is a lot of potential for growth here, but of course only time will actually tell. There was only one specific instance where Emma Roberts’ character, Vee, got on my nerves towards the end of the movie, but aside from that I thought she gave a pretty solid performance as well.
Final Thoughts: If you’re looking for something fun and mindless, and you’re okay with watching a ridiculous (and at times cheesy) storyline, then you may want to give this a try. Oh, and also if you’re a fan of MGK. I actually did not recognize him right away, but once I did, I found that he surprised me here in the way that Jared Leto surprised me in his role in Requiem for a Dream (2000). Obviously not anywhere near to Leto’s caliber of acting, but I also didn’t find it terrible either, for someone who I’m used to only associating with music.