Written by Tommy Tracy
In a summer filled with heroes, espionage and dinosaurs, some great, some truly horrendous, it’s refreshing to see something so original. The Gift, written, directed and starring Joel Edgerton, is a thriller and mystery, keeping you on the edge of your seat the entire run time. Edgerton plays Gordo, a strange man who happens to run into former schoolmate Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife, Robyn (Rebecca Hall). Simon and Robyn have recently moved from Chicago to Los Angeles (the reverse of what I personally have done, ironically) so Simon can start his new job at a security firm. Gordo attempts to befriend the couple, sending them gifts and inviting them to a couple’s dinner where they are the only three present. While his methods are strange, his intentions seem genuine, something Simon mistakes for creepiness, thus ending the threesome’s friendship. This sends Gordo off the deep end.
This is all I’ll say of the plot because after the friendship ends, this film kicks into high gear. Part horror, part thriller, part mystery, The Gift has a lot going for it. Edgerton is incredible in this role as Gordo. He plays creepy and intense incredibly well. Not only that but you actually feel for this guy. While he is technically the “villain” of this story, I feel he is sympathetic and good-natured, even if he goes about it the wrong way. Rebecca Hall is also fantastic, reminding me a lot of Shelley Duvall in The Shining, vulnerable and frightened. Jason Bateman is great as Simon, losing himself in this role, something I’ve never seen from him before. This is Bateman’s best acting performance. He’s actually very despicable and makes you start to root against him.
The best thing about this film is the seed of doubt that is planted early on in the film. Is Gordo lying, trying to get more out of this couple then it seems? Are these gifts he’s sending out of friendship or does he want something more? Is Gordo as creepy as he comes off or is it all in Simon’s mind? Is Robyn over her demons from Chicago or will they resurface? Is Simon telling the truth to his wife or is the past that Gordo implies coming back to haunt him? It’s these seeds of doubt that make this film so intriguing because just one little lie can and has ruined lives in this story. Rumors are spread, jobs and health are in jeopardy and it’s all because the truth is being withheld. If it sounds like I’m being vague it’s because the film is a little vague. The film relies on you to decide for yourself, something rarely seen but I truly appreciate.
The only fault I have with The Gift is concerning Robyn’s past. It is alluded to that she may or may not have had an alcohol and drug problem but never really brought up again. I mentioned earlier that I like the film’s ability to make you decide for yourself but this one seems like something they should have elaborated on a little more. It’s just dropped after one incident and never brought up again. Another knock I have is the marketing. I’m not going to take points off the film for this but they market this film as more of a horror movie with jump scares and not the psychological thriller that it truly is.
The Gift is great. An excellent story mixed with a twist that I did not see coming truly make this film one of a kind. Very rarely am I actually rooting for the “villain” but with Bateman’s excellent portrayal of a two-faced sociopath and Edgerton’s ability to make me feel sorry for him, I do. Edgerton truly deserves an Academy Award nomination for his writing, directing and acting because he pulls off the hat trick so well with this. Please go see The Gift and not make it one of those films that is talked about five years later as being underrated and should have done better.
Grade: 8.5 out of 10