What surprises me most about The Gift is that it nails every element of its genre to near perfection, the drama is dramatic and the thriller aspects are genuinely thrilling. Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut is smart, so simplistic yet thorough in character and plot. At first I wasn’t sure if I was enjoying The Gift but its slow burn nature works because not all thrillers need to fly by at a fast pace, the characters here move and develop in time realistically as the events gradually grow in nature.
Simon and Robyn Callum relocate to Los Angeles for Simon’s new job. On a shopping trip he bumps into an old school friend Gordon “Gordo” Moseley. As the couple settle into their new home, Gordo keeps stopping by, giving them gifts and getting progressively closer, much to Simon’s annoyance. Soon, the tension ramps up and things spin out of control. This film came from Blumhouse Productions, a production house known for supernatural horrors like Insidious, Sinister and the Paranormal Activity franchise. All those films feature jump scares, some CGI elements and demons. It's refreshing to see a film come from this company that has none of this, it's a grounded, realistic, non jump scare reliant thriller.
The framing and camerawork is so simple, no complex or sweeping shots, the simplicity is what works. Some sequences are played in prolonged single takes from afar, allowing the actors to perform naturally without resorting to cuts in-between. I loved the incredibly slow tracking shots that follow the characters slowly edging through hallways after hearing strange noises. Joel Edgerton masterfully stirs a brooding atmosphere, add that to the powerful performances and blimey this is a menacing movie.
Joel Edgerton is so, so good. His accent, reserved nature and mysterious gazes add so much to his strange character. At times I didn't trust him, but then there were moments I felt sorry for him and that's because of Edgerton's amazing acting ability. Jason Bateman, one of my favourite actors, gives the darkest and most convincing performance of his career. He isn't playing the sweet family everyman, he's a bully, a conniving career man concerned. Bateman's turn is unforgettable, especially the scene where he confronts Gordo and attacks him, pinning him to the floor, it was frightening yet rewarding to see Bateman unleash this side. Rebecca Hall, one of my favourite actresses, is finally given a main role and she absolutely knocks it out the park in The Gift, a women torn by trust issues and suspicion. Hall gives it her all, I'd even go as far to say this could be an Oscar worthy contending performance.
It is so thrilling and at times so unsettling seeing Gordo appear and deliver gift after gift. Watching the characters change as these events ramp up is fascinating, they break and fall apart, fights break out and the script allows the actors to really dig deep. The hospital climax is one of the most tense scenes in film of 2015, a cat and mouse style finale that sees characters collide together, truths come out and the reveals are truly shocking. I will not spoil what happens, you must watch this film. The performances are masterful, the direction and craft is so beautifully thought out making for a superb viewing experience.