The Gift is a surprisingly original psychological thriller from actor turn director Joel Edgerton. Surprising because the trailer made the movie look a bit clichéd and common, however the writing, directing, and the performances were all very sharp. Mr. Edgerton writes and directs a chilling movie that is original on its take on the genre.
Quickly when the movie begins, there’s a conscious effort and reason behind each scene. A noticeable theme is glass. Mr. Edgerton does a great job using windows to paint the theme of secret barriers and distrust. Simple scenes where Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall were talking to each other are directed in a unique way that demonstrates where they are in their marriage. In scenes where the actors easily could have had conversations face to face, instead the director chose to stage them with a window between them or talking to each other by looking in the mirror. These small choices really shows how much the director cared and crafted each scene.
Something that is greatly appreciated in this movie is that it is not conventional. It doesn’t have these Hollywood beats where you can predict what will happen next. It’s a story that unfolds and is one step ahead of its audience, and the moment you catch up to the characters something else is revealed. It is so refreshing to be on a ride because of a story and not the special effects or action set pieces. One of the underlying strength in the writing is where Edgerton does not force the exposition and treats the audience beneath him, but instead, we have to be active movie goers to really chew on the material.
Aside from the directing and writing, Joel Edgerton plays an incredibly flawed and mysterious man. It’s a character that could have easily been forgotten, but with his balanced performance, the character shines. However, the one actor that really surprised me was Jason Bateman. If anyone had doubts of his dramatic abilities, this movie should erase all of them. The way he walks the fine line of dramatic and comedic is impeccable. Last but not least, Rebecca Hall was a standout. She has this way of doing daily routines but at the same time hiding a lot of pain. She does all these little things with her eyes, smile, and gestures that are very nuanced that tell a deeper story of her character. Her timing with her dialogue is masterful where we can see that she doesn’t fit with a certain group of people.
Not only was I pleasantly surprised by this movie, but I was shocked to know he made the movie for only 5 million dollars. I highly recommend this movie, especially to those who need a break from the big action blockbusters, and I also advise everyone to be on the lookout for Joel Edgerton’s next film. 4.5/5
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