The Gift will surely gain a lot of buzz in the coming days, not only due to its shocking ending, but because of all the disturbing reveals throughout. This movie is such a thrill to sit through and is very involving as you try figure out what the next twist will be.
The story revolves around a couple (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall) that has just moved into a new house in California, and plan to start a family. But upon their arrival, they meet a man (Joel Edgerton) from the husband’s past, and throughout the movie their relationship with him goes from awkward conversations to nail-bitingly suspenseful encounters.
Lately it’s become very rare to see a thriller that holds your attention until the very end, much less has you on the edge of your seat, asking yourself “What could possibly happen next?” This is due to many recent thrillers having a dull pace, boring characters, and an uninteresting villain/threat. The thriller genre is a tough one to master, since there is a delicate balance the creators have to keep with the tension, mystery, shocks, etc. And many creators have a tough time trying to balance all of these in order to make a compelling movie. But luckily, The Gift brings everything a person could want in a thriller. Its paced perfectly as it slowly builds the tension, all the while asking questions that you’re begging to know the answer to by the end. The characters are not only well written and well acted, but their motives are unclear for a very large part of the movie, which adds a lot of depth to them by making them more mysterious. The “villain” in the movie is also captivating; as you figure out his history and his relationship to the main characters, you start to question who the real bad guy and victim are.
Joel Edgerton does a fantastic job as star, writer and director. His character is both vulnerable and creepy in his interactions with the couple. As the movie progresses and his backstory is revealed, you begin to understand his awkwardness and obsession with Jason Bateman’s character, but it still never takes away from his unnerving presence. Edgerton also does an excellent job as he directs his first feature length film. He keeps the pace slow and suspenseful, which really helps build the tension. The camerawork and score are also well handled, with many shots causing very effective jump scares, and the lack of music in certain scenes working just as well as the eerie music that plays throughout the film. All of these factors keep his audience on edge as he unfolds his disturbing revelations. He also shows quite a lot of skill with his story, keeping things fresh with each reveal. Not only does he do something completely different than what the audience expects, but with every reveal, he casts a new light on the main characters and makes it harder to know who to root for and trust. It all builds to an ending that’s shocking as well as ambiguous.
The acting from Bateman and Hall is also top notch. Bateman plays against type with his role, as he’s secretive and aggressive, but still shows some comedic talent, bringing much needed relief to the tension at times. Hall’s performance is also vulnerable and quiet, making you feel for her as she takes pity on Edgerton’s character and fear for her as he begins to prey on her throughout the movie. Between the three of them, they create a very uncomfortable relationship as the wife falls in the middle of the two men’s struggle over something that happened when they were in high school. And throughout the movie, the reveals cast new light on the relationship, by showing different sides of the three, changing how they act and feel towards one another. The movie hinges on the strained relationship between the characters, and the cast delivers by making you uncomfortable and keeping you on the edge of your seat with every interaction.
The best thing about The Gift is the way it plays with your expectations; it keeps you wondering what the characters motivations are and how things will end up. The only slight criticism I have is that I was able to guess a few of the reveals ahead of time. But given how many times it exceeded my expectations, it’s very easy to forgive.
The best advice I have for this movie
, is to go in as blindly as possible. It’s very involving as you and your friends whisper to each other what you think will happen next, only for something completely different to happen. This is a very well made thriller with some great performances, and its great for discussion with viewers lucky enough to not have had anything spoiled for them before going in.