Surprisingly Thrilling: A Review of ‘The Gift’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - August 07, 2015
Surprisingly Thrilling: A Review of ‘The Gift’

I’m paraphrasing here, but there is an old saying that if something walks like a duck and talks like a duck…it’s fair to say that it is a duck.  The previews for The Gift make it look like a low rent thriller but in spite of a couple of minor flaws it is anything but and it easily ranks as one of the biggest surprises of the summer movie season.

Moving back to Los Angeles seems to going perfectly to plan for Simon & Robyn (Jason Bateman & Rebecca Hall) until a chance encounter sets their lives into a tailspin.  While out shopping, they run into Gordo (Joel Edgerton) an old friend of Simon’s from high school who he doesn’t recognize at first and after a few more awkward encounters and ill timed gifts from Gordo, Simon insists that he stop running into them all the time.  However little does Robyn know that Simon knows Gordo all too well and she slowly unravels a horrible secret from her husband’s life and she wonders how well she actually knows the one person she is supposed to know better than anyone else on the planet?

In his feature length directorial debut, Joel Edgerton crafts a sharp and rich spin on the issues of bullying and how it can affect people’s lives, making The Gift into a compelling and engaging thriller rather than a tired thriller about obsession and human manipulation.

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It’s a slow burn of a movie, as Edgerton who also serves as writer on this one gives us that awkward experience that we have all lived through of not recognizing someone that we knew from our younger days and slowly ramps into a living nightmare that you’d never expect.  While the script has a couple of moments that are a little bloated it all flows with relative ease and sets up us as an audience for a huge twist and a fall that sucks us into this quiet little story that is probably happening around us more then we’d ever expect.  Jumps and genuine scares have rarely come as subtlety as they do in this picture and it speaks to Edgerton and his genuine potential as a storyteller that I am certain we will end up seeing more of.

Edgerton handles triple duty here and he handles it well as he makes his Gordo sympathetic and a little scary at the exact same time so we are never quite sure where he is coming from at anyone given time and his character leads us down the rabbit hole of this story exactly like he is supposed to.  Jason Bateman is a little uneven in this one but gets stronger the further the story goes along and some of his natural deficiencies as an actor actually begin to work in his favor.  Rebecca Hall is consistently underrated as an actress and carries the emotional weight of this entire story as she is never sure which way is up as she tries to rebuild her life after a family tragedy that her husband is seemingly trying to push past them in a rather unproductive way.

Whatever you do, don’t misjudge The Gift.  It has some genuine legs as an effective thriller and as a show  piece for Edgerton to get a chance to do something a little bigger.

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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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