Occasionally, hidden among the brash blockbusters of summer, comes a film so brilliantly inspired and original that it deserves a fairer chance than it will inevitably get. Such is the case for Joel Edgerton’s thriller/mystery, The Gift – unfortunately left lurking in the shadows of Mission Impossible and Fantastic Four.
This review will be as spoiler-free as possible, as I urge you all to check it out for yourselves.
When I first saw the trailer, I wasn’t in the slightest bit interested. I love a good thriller, but the story looked laughable, and highly predictable. But as reviews rolled in, my intrigue grew. Something about this seemed special, and the thought of seeing it played heavily on my mind.
For the first twenty minutes or so, my heart sank as I believed I’d been drawn into the run-of-the-mill predictable home-invasion thriller. A well-to-do husband (Jason Bateman) and wife (Rebecca Hall) move to a new home to start a new life and family. They run into an old acquaintance (Joel Edgerton), one of the husband’s old, estranged classmates, and an awkward friendship quickly turns into unwelcome company.
But as quickly as the original set ups are established, they’re torn down again. Completely enthralling, it’s impossible to tell where the next twist will come from – or where it will lead. There’s no chase through the house, with the heroine crouched in a dark corner desperately trying to call the police – only for her battery to die; there’s no ignorant character curiosity, where they can’t even turn lights on to check a weird noise; there isn’t an axe-wielding, knife-waving maniac chasing anyone. No. The Gift is a slow, subtle unravelling – a true edge-of-the-seat psychological thriller that Hitchcock himself would be proud of.
The performances are fantastic, with Bateman arguably giving the performance of his career. Far from the brilliantly blundering comedy of the Bluth family in Arrested Development, Bateman (as Simon) creates a truly believable character, becoming increasingly unsettling as we delve deeper into the rabbit hole. Rebecca Hall (as Robyn) was so engaging that she frequently stole the scene: a fascinating heroine of modern suburban imprisonment, trapped by fear and anxiety. And with The Gift, Joel Edgerton firmly establishes himself as a cinematic triple threat: writer, director, and actor. Edgerton created such an enthralling and weird character in Gordo that it was difficult not to feel empathy for him whilst also shifting uncomfortably at his presence.
As The Gift unravels, it pushes beyond the unexpected. The twists and turns become inevitably darker, blurring the boundaries between right and wrong, good and bad, demonstrating the true destructive power of suggestion. It questions of the cost of (what we perceive to be) power. The grand life, good job, beautiful wife. The true price is perfectly connoted in the motif of the glass house. Glass goes two ways: everyone can look into your perfect life, but you’re enclosed: trapped, left isolated – looking out at the rest of the world.
Every action has a consequence, with the past catching up to us all eventually. Tremendous and troubling, The Gift is not to be missed.