Director: Joel Edgerton
Stars: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton
Joel has presented us with a wonderful gift, here is my thank you card
I think The Gift managed to slip under everyone’s radar. There hasn’t been a really great ad campaign so you’d only know about it if you were quite the film fan, or had been impressed by the cheap trailers which make it look like your average scraping-the-barrel-type thriller. I actually went into The Gift completely blind. I didn’t watch any trailers, skimmed a couple of reviews and didn’t even really know what the story was about. It was a spontaneous trip to my local cinema I made on the day and I was very glad that I made it.
I think the less you know about The Gift, the better! In fact, I’ve just watched the theatrical trailer for it now and it gives way too much away. It also makes it look like a run-of-the-mill horror film, which it really isn’t. The Gift is a Hitchcockian thriller of the classiest kind. It starts out conventionally enough with a young couple moving into a new house blah blah blah, but the our heroes bump into a mysterious man called Gordo, an old school friend of Jason Bateman. This first encounter fills the film with mystery and intrigue which keeps it utterly gripping.
It’s very difficult to talk about The Gift without giving the plot away and I don’t want to ruin it for anybody. Suffice to say that Joel Edgerton has revealed himself to be quite the talent. His screenwriting skills are extremely impressive. Instead of throwing in clichés and outlandish plot twists, he’s built the film on a story unfolding naturally with realistic characters. In fact, it’s the characters which really made the film for me. They’re developed so beautifully and logically whilst still remaining grounded. By the end of the film it feels like Simon and Gordo are real people.
The fantastic acting also contributes to the feeling of realism. At times, Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall felt like a real couple having real arguments and doing real couply things! It’s a shame that Rebecca Hall isn’t used more in the world of films. I’ve only really seen her in The Prestige and she was equally great in that, plus she’s not too harsh on the eyes either. Joel Edgerton steals the show as Gordo though. He’s creepy, funny, mysterious and yet strangely likable. I suppose it depends on your type of character, but I also sympathised with Gordo like Rebecca Hall did.
Joel Edgerton also proves himself to be a dab hand behind the camera too. It’s difficult to believe that this is his feature length debut because it’s directed in such a confident and classy manner. He certainly knows how to craft an effective jump scare! There are two moments which absolutely made me jump out of my skin! I was worried for the couple of grannies I sat next to; I think their nerves were completely shot by the end of it all. I found there to be tension throughout the film which made it a riveting thing to watch from start to finish.
I also loved how focused the film was, especially at the beginning. Every scene pushes the plot forward, but in a natural way and not a forced one. Simon, Robyn and Gordo become our sole focus and we feel immersed in their lives. As the film goes on it manages to dig deeper and deeper into the characters which results in an astonishing finale which had my heart pounding. It could’ve easily slipped into a fun, yet conventional thriller finale in the vein of Cape Fear or Single White Female, but Joel decides to hit the audience harder by going taking a different route which completely pays off.
The Gift came as a total surprise to me. I was expecting it to be good from all the positive ratings from critics, but it turned out to be great. It’s an enthralling ride which manages to be intense and thrilling without sacrificing superb character development and subverting audiences’ knowledge of the genre. It’s a shame it hasn’t become a bigger hit, because it really does deserve to be one. It’s everything you could want in a thriller and I shall anticipate the next film Joel churns out.