“See, you are done with the past, but the past is not done with you.”
Suspense thriller is a very tricky genre when it comes to films. I really like how a director slowly builds up a film, sets up a story, draws you into it, keeps you on the edge-of-your-seat all the time and in the end, astonishes you with a mind-bending twist in the tale. But let’s face it, that doesn’t happen very often. Most of the time, the film loses somewhere in the middle, not necessarily becomes a bad film from a really good one though but still; if you know what I mean. The Gift, however is the kind of suspense thriller which I have described earlier. I loved it so much and being a sucker for this particular kind of films, I feel obligated to write about it, without giving away the spoilers, of course.
The film starts with a seemingly happy looking married couple (Rebecca Hall and Jason Bateman) moving to a suburban Los Angeles neighborhood after Bateman’s character finds a new job. While buying some stuffs for their new house, an old school friend of the husband (Joel Edgerton, who also happens to direct the film) suddenly bumps into them and thus forming a friendly alliance which prolongs when Edgerton’s character starts sending gifts to Bateman’s house. And that is about it. I don’t wish to write about what happens after that and you really don’t need to know as well. Because not knowing “what the thing is about” can only enhance your movie watching experience for a movie like this one.
What I loved about the movie is the atmosphere it slowly creates right from the start. You see everything is going fine, but you always get this strange uneasy vibe of something must be wrong somewhere about the whole thing. While you are itching to find out the supposedly big twist you are craving for, the movie somewhat abruptly gives it away in the middle, only to fool you later with the actual thing, which, even though extremely creepy and terrifying to some extent, is very much satisfying from a movie watching perspective. This is very smart film-making for which Edgerton deserves a lot of credit. The ending, although conclusive for most part, is left somewhat unclear (ambiguous) to make your own judgment about one of the characters which eventually makes the film even better.
The performances by the actors help the taut, well-crafted script further. Rebecca Hall delivers a very much subtle, restrained, matured performance, suiting the character she was given to play. Edgerton plays the creepy (or not) guy with ease, while handling the directorial duties. But it’s Bateman, who impresses the most in my opinion. Playing a character we can’t really connect with someone like him, he is absolutely brilliant, especially during the climax of the movie he nails it. What a brilliant acting. The rest of the cast did okay, although they really didn’t have much to do.
It would be a criminal offense if I don’t write a bit about Edgerton’s direction. Confessing I have never been that much of a fan of the actor (I do like some of his films though), I got bowled over with his directorial ability. Going by this was his debut, I would really like to see what Edgerton, as the director makes after this. Overall, The Gift is a brilliant, smart and wicked psychological/suspense thriller and definitely one of the best of the year. It deserves to be watched and appreciated.