"Truth or Dare Without the Truth"
NERVE is a scary thriller about a group of teenagers sucked into playing a dangerous online multiplayer game of truth or dare without the truth. NERVE is shot in an exciting way and contains warnings about the dangers of Internet technology and peer pressure, but its characters are a bit shallow, and it provides mostly humanist solutions to the problems it explores, along with plenty of foul language, immoral behavior and some drunkenness, all of which involves teenagers.
In NERVE, teenagers are sucked into playing an online multiplayer game called “Nerve,” an extreme version of truth or dare (without the truth). Members can choose to be either “watchers” or “players.” Players complete dares for money, while watchers observe through live-streamed video. Many of these dares are illegal and dangerous.
When a shy New York City high school student named Vee (Emma Roberts), short for Venus, first plays Nerve, it exhilarates her. Along the way, she meets a mysterious stranger named Ian (Dave Franco), who teams up with her. Vee completes dare after dare with Ian, each one riskier than the last, until she finds herself trapped in the game. By then, however, it’s too late, and the only way out is to do the unthinkable.
NERVE follows the popular trend of entertainment that uses shock value to warn about the dangers of technology. There are TV shows like MR. ROBOT, about a mentally ill hacker who periodically goes on rants about the deplorable state of the world. Then, there’s UNFRIENDED, a horror movie where teenagers are put into peril because of social media and cyber bullying. In all these examples, computers are at once the villain and the savior. While people use the programs to get themselves into trouble, they also use the programs to get themselves out of trouble.
So, here, again, is a commentary on the dangerous power of technology, especially when it’s combined with peer pressure and our desire to gain attention or be loved. That said, it also preaches a humanist worldview that as long as the right people are in control, everything will turn out all right, but if the wrong people are in control, chaos ensues. Thus, NERVE seems to have a mixed worldview with humanist and moral elements.
NERVE’s on-the-nose references to Ancient Roman culture (Vee’s full name is Venus, and the game’s final round takes place in a gladiatorial arena) show that perhaps the movie is trying to teach moviegoers nothing has changed throughout human existence. Even so, though Solomon preaches in Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the sun,” we can still have hope that Jesus Christ will redeem the world.
NERVE is shot in an exciting way that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. Neon lights and some popular electronic music help make this movie mesmerizing. However, hiding under the adrenaline-fueled action is a quiver full of shallow characters.
Vee (Emma Stone) is a cinematic dream girl: demure, pretty, smart, and shy, while somehow still popular, and rarely engages in risky behavior. Even so, she’s willing to become a “bad girl” for the sake of recognition, but her motivation is ungrounded. She’s looking to prove herself after taunts from her more adventurous friend, Sydney (Emily Meade), who is also a player. However, it’s doubtful that a realistic character would go as far as Vee does for the sake of the game.
Vee’s friend Tommy has little passion. He spends the movie driving around New York City trying to find her, but reluctantly so. Sydney is Vee’s total opposite, and argues and competes with Vee the whole movie, which may make viewers wonder why they’re friends in the first place.
Vee is also disrespectful to her mother. The mother, Nancy (Juliette Lewis), spends the whole movie worrying about her daughter. Vee only speaks to Nancy once in the beginning of the movie. Otherwise, Tommy serves as the mediator. She hides the fact she’s heart-set on art school, even though Nancy wants her close to home.
Because of the nature of the game, NERVE has foul language, violence, nudity, and drinking, with all of it involving teenagers. Much of this bad behavior results in no consequences.
Despite its message that social media should be used wisely, families should exercise discretion when watching NERVE with older teenagers. The movie’s not recommended for younger children. Ultimately, it’s the combination of objectionable content and risky behaviors in NERVE that makes the movie unacceptable viewing.
Finally, though media technology can indeed be dangerous to families with children and grandchildren, we don’t have to (and shouldn’t) rely on humanity to save us, as the movie’s humanist solution suggests. Instead, we can rest on the freeing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and delivers us from evil.
(PaPa, HH, BB, LL, VV, S, NN, AA, DD, MMM) Strong mixed pagan worldview with humanist message supporting the power of human beings over the world around them, mixed with a strong moral message that teaches wise media choices and warns against peer pressure; 16 obscenities (including one “f” word), 17 light exclamatory profanities, a couple light references to fornication; strong and light violence includes teenager falls to his death (death not shown), teenagers engage in risky/dangerous behavior throughout, some gun violence, a girl is punched in the face and blood is shown; implied fornication between two teenagers, teenagers shown kissing, teenagers dance seductively; brief lower rear female nudity, teenagers wear provocative clothes throughout, girl is shown undressing and in her underwear for an extended scene, an image of a nearly-bare female rear end, man is shown in his underwear; teenage drinking throughout, plus drunkenness discussed; brief images of illegal drugs; teenagers lie to and disrespect parents, stealing, miscellaneous illegal activity, and cyber bullying.
NERVE is a scary thriller about playing a dangerous online multiplayer game of truth or dare without the truth. When a shy New York City high school student named Vee first plays Nerve, it exhilarates her. Then, she meets Ian, a mysterious stranger who teams up with her. Vee completes dare after dare with Ian, each one riskier than the last, until she is trapped in the game. By then, it’s too late, and the only way out is to do the unthinkable.
NERVE is shot in an exciting way that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. However, its characters are a bit shallow, and their actions don’t always make sense. NERVE contains warnings about the dangers of Internet technology, especially when it’s combined with peer pressure and our desire to be loved. Against this positive warning is a humanist view that relies on humans to solve problems, not God or the Bible. Because of the nature of the game in the story, NERVE has foul language, violence, brief nudity, and drinking, all of it involving teenagers. So, media-wise viewers beware.