The Gift (2015)

August 10, 2015

Starring: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton
Director: Joel Edgerton

Bottom Line: The Gift is a surprisingly solid thriller from first time writer/director (and co-star) Joel Edgerton. Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall play a seemingly normal and happy couple buying a new home in his old home town only to have things turned upside down when an odd man from the husband’s past (Edgerton) shows up with an unhealthy fascination with getting involved in their lives. It’s a pretty simple plot that is unraveled masterfully by Edgerton in his feature film directorial debut. The Gift is the ultimate slow burn – at times it can feel like the pacing is snail-speed, but it’s all worth it, as there’s an undeniable tension throughout the film, even during scenes of what seems like banal dialogue. For a movie with very few obligatory scare moments – there is one scene that made the entire theater jump in terror and then laugh at how silly we all are – The Gift is patently chilling.

It’s refreshing to see Jason Bateman play against type in The Gift. While he provides some moments to chuckle at, his character is no comedian and his dramatic, sometimes mean, performance is pretty impressive. Even though Bateman gets top billing, Rebecca Hall is quite obviously the film’s star and her performance is top notch. She shifts gears with ease and displays a wide range of emotions throughout the film; this is a fully realized character with an acting job to match. Joel Edgerton is wonderfully mysterious and creepy as the old schoolmate, but his work off the screen as writer and director is what he should really be praised for.

I thought The Gift was going to be in the horror genre, but it’s clearly in suspense/thriller territory. Though my expectations were dramatically raised by strong reviews by the time I watched it, The Gift is a very pleasant surprise for 2015. Several months ago, I would have never guessed I’d even want to see this movie. It’s certainly worth the overwhelmingly positive praise it’s been receiving and gets a strong recommendation from me.

Replay Value: I would watch it again because it was good, but a lot of the film’s strength is based on the suspense of not know what’s going to happen.
Sequel Potential: There is some remote chance of a sequel, but I think it would be a bad play.
Oscar Potential: Rebecca Hall gives a strong performance, but it would surprise me to see this type of movie get awards attention.

Grade: 7/10 (Must See)

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