20 nov. 2015

The Gift (8/10): A solid psychological thriller

¨It's all in the eyes, you see. You see what happens when you poison other people's mind with ideas?¨

The Gift sort of appeared from nowhere and has surprised critics and audiences alike for its suspenseful narrative and strong performances. This is Joel Edgerton's directorial debut and what makes it even more impressive is that he wrote the script and co-starred in the film as well, so it is quite an achievement for him. Edgerton had previously co-written some interesting scripts (The Rover and The Square), but this is the first time he went solo while deciding to direct it as well.  These mystery thrillers are probably my favorite kind of films so I was hooked from the very beginning and loved the performances. This is the film I wished Creep would've been. The performances are solid and no one seems to be over selling it. There are also several suspenseful moments and a couple of jump scares that worked extremely well. Edgerton does a fantastic job directing this movie without trying to do anything overly artistic. It is a simple mystery thriller that manages to work thanks to some clever twists and surprises along the way. The premise at first seems like one you've seen before, but each time you think you know where the film is heading it takes a couple of unexpected turns that work to the film's advantage and adds to the overall creepy atmosphere.

I don't want to give the plot away so I will be as simplistic as possible, but no matter how familiar the premise may seem at first I recommend you stick with it because the film is very rewarding.  We are introduced to a married couple who have recently moved to California from Chicago. Simon (Jason Bateman) is returning to his childhood town with his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall). They seem to be the perfect couple living a blissful life as they both are settling into their beautiful new home. While they are visiting a local store, Simon runs into a man who introduces himself as Gordo (Joel Edgerton). At first Simon doesn't recognize him, but they were both school friends and it doesn't take long for him to recall him (Gordo the weirdo as he later tells his wife). Gordo is very excited to see him and seems very friendly although it does make Simon a bit uneasy. Gordo begins sending gifts to the couple and showing up at their home uninvited which begins to make them uncomfortable (as well as the audience).  It becomes evident that Gordo is a bit of a creep, but he isn't exactly menacing either. As familiar as this stalker premise might seem, the film does evolve into something more and it does so in a very natural way. 

I'd say that The Gift is more of a psychological drama than an actual horror thriller, but it does have its jump scares scattered throughout. The mystery works because everything unfolds naturally and none of the twists seem forced. Edgerton never plays tricks on the audience and delivers a straightforward film which benefits from the three lead performances. Jason Bateman is known for his comedic work, but here he excels in this dramatic role playing a successful business man. Rebecca Hall is also great although her character isn't given much of an arc. Joel Edgerton is fantastic as this creep who makes the audience feel uncomfortable while also feeling sorry for him at times. I don't think the movie would've worked without these strong lead performances because they play a key role in making the premise evolve naturally. The Gift ended up being a memorable psychological thriller that benefited from the audience going into it without knowing much about it. It was a fantastic experience and one of the better thrillers to come out this year. In a way it feels like a throwback to some thrillers from the 90´s.

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