Directed by Joel Edgerton
Written by Joel Edgerton
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall
In The Gift, a couple Simon and Robyn (Bateman and Hall) relocate from Chicago to California where the run into Gordo (Edgerton) an acquaintance of Simons from high school. Gordo then attempts to build rapport with Simon and Robyn by sending them various gifts. However, Gordo’s actions soon begin to turn off Simon and Robyn, so they distance themselves from Gordo. At that point, some unsettling information becomes known about the past between Simon and Gordo.
The positives of The Gift are the cast of the film. Bateman, Hall, and Edgerton all give fantastic performances. Edgerton’s performance is disturbing and creepy, and at times unnerving to watch. In the film Bateman proves the range of talent that he possesses as an actor, Bateman is more than just Michael Bluth. Aside from the cast, Edgerton (who also wrote and directed the film) delivers an excellent directorial debut. The film well paced for a narrative delivered as a slow burn. The mystery in the movie is developed layer by layer slowly, and many of the shots in the film are given slowly. The slow burn works for the film because it creates a disturbing atmosphere that as the story progresses you feel as unnerved as Simon and Robyn.
The negatives of The Gift are a couple of subplots that feel shoehorned into the film, one between Simon and a coworker, and one about Robyn. The Robyn subplot is underdeveloped, only mentioned a few times, and feels like it is only there to build tension between her and Simon. The Simon subplot is only there to reinforce the idea that Simon is the kind of person that he was revealed to be when it would have been more efficiently used to foreshadow this revelation.
With The Gift Joel Edgerton delivers an unnerving psychological thriller, that exceeds where a thriller needs to succeed but fails to develop the subplots. The Gift receives a 4/5 because Edgerton is clearly a graduate of the Hitchcock school of thrillers. Also for directors of horror films, take note of the two scenes in the film that use the jump scare device. Those two scenes are excellent examples of how to effectively employ the jump scare.