Wednesday 23 December 2015

The Gift

Thrillers. Hugely important in the past, especially the 1990s – Se7en, The Usual Suspects, The Silence of the Lambs, etc. – but nowadays, harder to find. Sure, you’ve got your Gone Girl and your Prisoners, but these days it’s all about the horror. And even that is becoming a tired genre, with clichés here, there and everywhere. But what’s this? A film that hybridises the thriller and horror genre to make a fresh, original and incredibly unnerving 2 hours that kept audiences so far on the edge of their seats they almost fell off? “Tell me more”, I hear you cry. Well, seeing as you asked so nicely...

Out now on DVD & Blu-Ray, The Gift might look unoriginal on the surface. A seemingly perfect couple (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall) move into a lovely new house to start a family, but their peace is short-lived when a face from the past reappears and begins to stalk them, while bringing them frequent gifts. But is this man, Gordon (Edgerton), as evil as he seems? Or is the villain a little closer to home after all? The Gift is a deeper and more complex piece than others of its type, and takes so many twists and turns that I don’t want to spoil. So, I will attempt to review the film ‘on the surface’ rather than get stuck into it properly. The dark thrills and horrors of The Gift are best experienced without any knowledge of what they are, or when they’re coming.

I know what you’re thinking. Yes, Jason Bateman plays it completely straight here. And he’s damn good. As Simon, Bateman goes against type in two ways. The first being the obvious – he’s playing a serious role. But secondly, he’s so unlikeable. Portraying a darkly secretive man, he is now as far from Arrested Development’s Michael Bluth as he’s been. Rebecca Hall’s Robyn seemingly has her own secrets and ambiguity which she performs equally well, but the film belongs to Joel Edgerton. As well as writing and directing this incredible piece of work, he delivers one of the most understatedly skin-crawling performances in the genre. As ‘Gordo’, he evokes tension and fear out of what appears at first to just be generosity and friendliness. But of course, as the film goes on he becomes slightly too friendly, bringing more and more gifts to the house. Hiding his own secrets alongside Simon and Robyn, this ambiguous trio of characters is the main cause for this film’s originality. Usually with these stalker films, the ‘victims’ are cleanly-cut, perfect and innocent people. In The Gift, they’re no saints.

The Gift’s pacing and execution is nothing short of masterful. Joel Edgerton’s screenplay and direction, along with his performance, make The Gift a masterpiece of the genre and certainly a future classic. That makes it all the more impressive that this is his feature-length directorial debut. While it does occasionally resort to jump scares, they don’t feel cheap or unwarranted. They’re done in a way that increases the tension and fear within The Gift, rather than feeling forced. But the main scares of The Gift are a lot more, I don’t know, mundane. For example, ‘Gordo’ making a house-call to deliver another gift. It’s something that in real life, or any other film, would seem so innocent and kind. But here, it’s tense and frightening. My heart very rarely races when I’m watching a film. But in The Gift, I often thought something was wrong with the ol’ ticker. It was going crazy. There lies the power of this film.

The Gift is a difficult film to review. Watch it, and you’ll understand why. I have said everything I could possibly say without spoiling the plot’s twists and turns. But believe me when I say it is incredible. It’s not just a thriller, nor is it a horror…It’s an experience. It will take your breath away. It hasn’t left my mind since I watched it and I don’t think it will for a while. With a trio of incredible performances, a phenomenal script and expert direction from Edgerton, The Gift is one of the finest films the genre has to offer.

The Gift is a gift to audiences everywhere, and a gift to cinema. 5/5.


Sam Love

The Gift at CeX

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