THE GIFT [2015]

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Directed and Written by Joel Edgerton

Starring: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton

This post will be brief, as the less you know about this film, the better. This post doesn’t contain anything at all that could be considered a spoiler; this is simply my reaction to a film that you should go blind into – I went on a total information black-out regarding this flick before seeing it, reading only a few reviews. I’m glad I did this.

I have been a fan of Joel Edgerton for a few years now. From Animal Kingdom to the upcoming Black Mass, he is steadily making a name for himself as one of our top exports. Joel writes, directs and stars in this thriller, so my expectations were probably set a little too high. While this is very far from a bad movie, it was missing something, something small; like a recipe that has been perfectly cooked but is missing one spice that makes it the meal it is.

Edgerton and DOP Eduard Grau have created a fantastic looking movie from a technical standpoint, with each shot being purposeful, often zooming slowly in or panning across very slowly. The acting is also stellar – Bateman shows his range – performing well in a dramatic setting, and puts forward the best performance of the film. Edgerton is also fantastic as old friend Gordo – his demeanour subtle yet unsettling, while his actions have an ambiguous nature to them. They will have you thinking each time. There are many different ways other parts of this film can be interpreted too. It is a simple tale but the way it is told can be perceived in many different ways.

This movie also twists in ways that make you think – sometimes forcing you to reassess the entire movie so far – and again a lot of the events are presented ambiguously, allowing room for thought and contemplation well after the credits roll. It is certainly a movie I’d love to watch again.

But, as mentioned, it felt like something was missing. The first thirty or so minutes are very sedate, and the rest of the movie doesn’t possess the suspense that I was expecting from the story as it unfolded. I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, I did not feel any tension. I did not feel immersed. The movie coasts along breezily, at times using a few jump scares – a technique which I have never liked and consider a lazy way to write a scene. The movie did not evoke much emotion from me, despite the well written story and the superb acting. I can’t quite put my finger on it. It isn’t… intense enough. There is an energy that is lacking. At least, that was how I felt after it finished. I did however think the ending was fantastic and again, ambiguous in nature. Very anti-Hollywood, which I approve of. I saw this with a group of people and we came out with varying opinions on what certain parts of the movie meant, and had a good half-hour discussion afterwards.

The Gift is a great and simple concept that falls just short of its potential. Still, a solid directorial debut from Edgerton. He definitely has a good eye. Unfortunately the last film I saw him involved in – Felony – suffered from the same problem as this film. There was a lack of urgency, a lack of energy driving this film. It resulted in a good watch but considering the story, it feels like that there should have been a menacing atmosphere present. The way the soundtrack is handled doesn’t help in this regard, and it is here we begin to see the roughness around the edges of Joel’s debut. Let’s hope he can inject some energy into his next project.