Starring: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton
Director: Joel Edgerton
Running Time: 108 mins
The Gift is an American film about a married couple who move into a small Los Angeles neighbourhood with the aim of starting a family. In their first few days, they run into Gordo, a man who went to high school with them, however his continued presence in their lives gradually becomes problematic.
This film took me completely by surprise. It looks like a generic thriller on the outset, and with three actors that aren’t famed for the greatest dramatic performances of all time, I wasn’t expecting much. However, I was blown away by this movie. It’s a hugely suspenseful, unpredictable and unsettling film, complete with an enthralling story, three fantastic performances, and amazing directing from Joel Edgerton.
The one thing that I will warn you about this film is that if you’re not a fan of a slow build-up, you may struggle with the first half of The Gift. It’s a film that really takes its time while setting tension, and, although it really works in the end, it makes the film feel far longer than it is, and a little dragging at times in the first act.
Apart from that, however, this is a pretty amazing thriller. Once the tension and mystery begins to set in, and we move into a potently unpredictable story, it becomes absolutely enthralling to watch, and a lot of that comes from Joel Edgerton’s fantastic directing.
For a feature directorial debut, and combined with the fact that he wrote the story, and gives a great performance on top of that, you have to commend Edgerton for his part in this film. He gives the film an ingeniously eerie, but never explicitly frightening or dark, atmosphere, and that works just as well as some of the best horror films of all time.
The film may be unsettling throughout, but it is still a really entertaining watch. Edgerton’s directing and writing ingeniously directs and misdirects your attention away from the centre of the story, making for even more unpredictable and shocking twists and turns throughout, similar in fashion to such great mysterious thrillers as Gone Girl.
And the best part of it all is, with all these twists and turns and vague plot points, you go into the final act still knowing almost nothing about the characters and the events that are unfolding, meaning that, even twenty minutes before the end, there’s no way to predict how the film will finish, which was fantastic to see.
Finally, away from the brilliant story and directing, the performances here are excellent. Joel Edgerton, in a smaller role, is fantastic as the villain, and Rebecca Hall is brilliant as the wife in the married couple. However, the stand-out performance is easily Jason Bateman, who gives a stunning turn in a dramatic role.
Bateman’s character is brilliantly ambiguous throughout, and his performance emphasises that perfectly. He may be presented as the innocent party whose life is turned upside down, but Bateman makes sure that you’re never entirely on the man’s side with a dark and very powerful performance, and that makes for yet another layer of intrigue and unpredictability in the film.
Overall, I absolutely loved The Gift. It may have a few problems with pacing, but once you’re hooked on the hugely unpredictable mystery, and blown away by the fantastic directing and performances, you’ll be completely enthralled in one of the best thrillers of the decade, and that’s why I’m giving this an 8.4.