Choose or Die review: An exciting idea with substandard implementation

Netflix’s Choose or Die stars Iola Evans as a college dropout who plays a vintage choice-based game whose prize money has not been claimed. However, the choices have fatal real-life consequences. The film is now streaming on Netflix.

Story

In the film’s prologue, we see a middle-aged man named Hal who is obsessed with 1980s retro games. He comes by a game called CURS>R and starts playing it. The game forces players to make brutal binary decisions, he soon realizes they have fatal real-life consequences.

Soon the game falls into the hands of Kayla (Iola Evans), a college dropout and aspiring programmer who lives in a housing complex with her drug-addicted mother (Angela Griffin). Her friend, Isaac (Asa Butterfield), has a vast knowledge of analogue hacking techniques and video games in general.

Tempted by the opportunity to claim the prize money, she starts playing it at 2 am. The game is omniscient. It has a curse embedded in the code, the curser can inflict pain and trauma on the players. Kayla, with the help of Isaac, gets to the history and the workings of the game.

Although she is aware of the consequences, Kayla has to make choices that will lead to injuries, death, and introspection into her subconscious fears. In the first level, she makes a choice that kills a waitress.

In the second, a giant rat chases her mother. When she is finally closer to beating the game and tricking its algorithm, she loses her friend and ends up alone in a battle that would decide her fate.

Performances

The performances saved the otherwise lacklustre film. All the performances are brilliant, especially that of Asa Butterfield and Iola Evans. The supporting actors, although they had limited screen time, live up to the expectations of the viewers.

Joe Bolland’s performance as Beck, the original controller of the game, is particularly memorable.

Positives

The direction is appreciable, and the shots seamlessly flow from one scene to the other. At no point did the film feel monotonous and boring, and the pacing was almost perfect.

The songs that were used perfectly capture the mood of the moment. There are also subtle political undertones in the film connected to music, like the hip hop number when we first meet Kayla and the vintage music playing in Hal’s room.

The ending is interesting in the sense that it shows anyone can be the curser, and thus prosper at the expense of others’ suffering.

Negatives

The performances, soundtrack, cinematography, and political undertones do not help the film since it has been indolently written. Character development is negligible.

Some scenes were disappointingly predictable, and the motif of the game and players are also questionable. They are left vague in a way that is not intriguing.

The film could have been extended for a few minutes to address the issues that were taken up as it progressed.

Verdict

The film has an exciting premise and excellent performances, but the tension doesn’t build up well towards the final act or even the climax. Nonetheless, it is an entertaining watch for casual viewers.

Rating: 3/5


Also Read: Choose or Die summary and ending explained

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