Unwrap ‘The Gift’ To Subvert Your Thriller Expectations (Movie Review)

The GiftIt’s going to take me awhile, but I’m sorry.  Every time I hear the movie title The Gift my mind instantly thinks of Sam Raimi’s 2001 film featuring the likes of Cate Blanchett, Katie Holmes, Keanu Reeves, Giovanni Ribisi and Greg Kinnear.  I keep having to tell myself it’s 2015 and movie titles are allowed to have the same name as others that have come before it.  Is it unoriginal?  Hell yes it is, but we have a new player in town and lately producer Jason Blum (The Purge and basically every other horror film out there in recent years) is a force to be reckoned with because the dude is walking on water.  He can do no wrong!  Of course it doesn’t hurt when your film features the talents of Jason Bateman and Joel Edgerton too, but I digress.  We’ll talk more about those two down below.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present to my gift to you…The Gift movie review.

So while I’m a huge Joel Edgerton fan in general I purposely called him out above for three reasons.  Not only is the actor a main part of the principal cast here, but he’s also both the writer and director too.  I know!  Wow, huh?  Exactly!  So this chilling psychological thriller we have here marks the feature directorial debut of the acclaimed actor and writer, formerly made famous in well known flicks such as The Great Gatsby, Zero Dark Thirty and my personal favorite Warrior.  However, I surprisingly have not talked about the actor who brought me here in the first place, one of my personal favorites, Jason Bateman.  In addition to those two, Rebecca Hall rounds out the small main billing cast.  Now that we got that all out of the way, let’s talk about what The Gift is all about.  Follow me down.

The Gift

The Gift asks the question can you really go through life having never wronged anyone?  It pushes the envelope a little further when it ponders that question deeper by stating that even if you are unaware of how, or when, and even who you may have wronged….chances are there is someone out there who won’t ever forget it…or you.  Now I don’t know about you, but I love deep moral reflections like that.  After all, the subject of revenge is a formula or should we call it a science that comprises the underlying DNA of the best stories in my opinion.

So in our story here we find a young married couple, Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall).  Their lives together seem to be going just as planned (or so we initially thought).  Nothing can seemingly ruin their bliss except wait…a chance encounter with an acquaintance from Simon’s high school.  Simon doesn’t recognize Gordo (Joel Edgerton) at first.  Wait a minute!  Isn’t Gordo a Mortal Kombat character?  Oh that’s Goro!  Never mind, I digress.   So it’s not long that after a seemingly coincidental series of encounters proves troubling, a horrifying secret from Simon’s past is uncovered after nearly 20 years.  Even worse, Robyn starts piecing together the unsettling truth about what really happened between Simon and Gordo.  How well can she trust her husband?  Is he who he says he is?  Are past bygones ever really buried in the past?  All these questions and more are what The Gift tries to accomplish.  Now the million dollar question comes into play.  Is Joel Edgerton successful in the storytelling department?  Now we’re talking the meat and potatoes, my favorite subject!

The Gift

The Gift is truly a “gift” from the movie Gods to enjoy and relish for fans who adore 80’s/90’s psychological thriller films.  Joel’s directorial debut is strong and his character performance is equally as bodacious in the creep factor department.  The Gift is one of those unsettling, unnerving films where anything can really happen.  Despite what you think may be a pretty straight forward plot as witnessed in the film’s theatrical trailers, Joel leaves you guessing throughout giving the three major characters their own quirks, ticking time bombs and deep flaws.  He makes you wonder is it all in someone’s head.  Are they perhaps the real psychopath in the feature?  I don’t know about you, but  I like films that make you think you know it all, and in the end you really didn’t.  Joel had a couple chances to really shine and knock it out of the ballpark , but The Gift did fall flat in a few areas, most notably the ending for me.  However, all is forgiven because The Gift is really an entertaining watch and I’m sorry to make this comparison, but it kind of reminded me of Rosemary’s Baby where all the tension just continuously builds until the final reveal.

Just one watch of The Gift instantly reveals how all the scenes are meticulously framed and well thought out.  In fact, one could almost say the camera is the fourth major character in this story making it seem like anything is possible.  However, let’s not derail from where credit is due in the performances category.  Yes, there are only three major roles in here, not leaving much room for that wild card in the story so to speak, but the performances are so strong and robust that you get sucked right into the story and even succumb to all the familiar plot devices.  Bateman shines as usual.  The guy can do no wrong.  Just watch his facial twitches and non verbal cues.  They say it all without Bateman even having to mutter a word.  He plays that bad guy (I don’t mean villain) role perfectly, as he’s been doing all along since Arrested Development and most recently Bad Words.  However, who’s more crazy in all of this?  Edgerton doesn’t look like his normal self here, but he’s equally disturbing in this.  Or, as the film makes you ponder, is it the quiet, distressed wife (Hall) of Bateman’s character that you really have to worry about?  Who knows!  It could be Jango the dog too.  I’m not telling you.

The Gift

The craft of the thriller genre may not be completely perfected throughout here, but like I said up above and I’ll say it again, The Gift is a damn good, creepy time to be had at the movies this weekend.  It’s well written and intricately performed.  However, what I love most about The Gift is it never feels hurried or rushed.  It meticulously takes its time to unwrap and despite that, it never leaves you feeling bored, restless or tired of the direction.  I was on the edge of my seat waiting and salivating in anticipation over what was going to happen next and push Joels’ directorial debut into an ape sh1t conundrum for the characters from which they could not turn back. There’s a number of twists and subversive expectations to be had here, but my favorite takeaway is the fact The Gift really doesn’t have that stereotypical villain or cliche psychopath.  Hell, they all can be bad people in this one.  Why not, right?  It’s like playing the board game Clue.  The Gift will leave you guessing what if until the very end.  Beware though. The film’s ending may please the majority, but have others up in arms.  That’s all I’ll say about.  Good job, Joel!  Enjoy this one from newcomers STX!  It’s a Day 1 purchase for me on the Blu-ray format.

The Gift Poster


Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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