For someone who watches a lot of movies, the genre of suspense is a tough sell for me. At one point, every plot point becomes predictable and the twist more obvious depending on how much information I can glean before viewing. The basic principle of suspense is a deliberate withhold of information so the audience has no idea what is going on. The secretive nature is what makes suspense so potent as made apparent in Wait Until Dark, Eastern Promises, and M. Night Shayamalan before the decline. The Gift is Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut in the genre. Was I surprised or did my predictions come to fruition?
It is frustrating when I can figure out how a movie will turn out before I see it. I knew what was going to happen in Days of Future Past right after The Wolverine and for the life of me I could not get into it. I admit I called it in every way with Gift all the way down to the twist, but the execution and meaning behind the events of the story make it exceptional.
After moving into a new house, Simon and Robin, played by Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall, stumble upon Gordo, played by Joel Edgerton, a high school acquaintance of Simon’s. As the trio engages in a mild friendship, Simon becomes wary of Gordo’s behavior as long buried memories resurface and Robin more suspicious of her husband.
It is obvious Gift is about bullying. There was more than enough information in the trailers to imply as much and it does not take a lot of thinking to figure out what is going on. As someone who dealt with bullies in high school, the movie is true to life and what happens to victims years later. I, however, did not turn into a vengeful psychopath. I just stopped thinking of people who harass others as people, which in turn gave rise to nihilism.
The method of the revenge was clever and made Gift more surprising than predicable. I knew what was coming, but the meaning behind the twist was compelling enough for me to forego explaining in further detail for fear of spoilers. It is not at all what you are thinking if you came to same conclusion as I. It enhances the message of how bad bullying can affect a victim’s mental state and life and that is all I will say on the matter.
Being his first major film as a director and one of many as a writer, Edgerton has potential. He knows how to handle lighting and shot composition with a touch of noir that harkens back to the 50s and 60s. That being said, his performance was not all there, but it is understandable as he was behind the camera for most of the time. Bateman felt real as the repressed bully that undergoes a turn as Gordo’s advances become more intense. He had great chemistry with Hall who played the more reasonable half of the couple.
The Gift is a great suspense thriller. It is tight and simple in both plot and scale, as it does not try to be extravagant or overly complex. It is very similar to Wait Until Dark and if you are a fan of that movie, I recommend buying a ticket.