Director: Joe Edgerton
Starring: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joe Edgerton, Allison Tolman, Tim Griffin, Adam Lazarre-White
Written by: Joe Edgerton
Running Time: 108 mins
Release date: 7th August 2015
Well done, Joe Edgerton. In a time when thrillers are less than thrilling and in which they mainly treat the audiences as idiots, thankfully Mr Edgerton has delivered a film that not only grips like a vice but treats its audience like intelligent people. With three terrific lead performances, this is definitely one of the best thrillers this year.
Simon and Robyn are a married couple who have just moved to Los Angeles, where Simon grew up but now he is there for his new job. While out shopping, he bumps into Gordo, an old school acquaintance. Their meeting soon becomes more than brief, as Gordo starts arriving at their new home with gifts. Yet his intentions seem vague and it soon becomes apparent that a past event has come back to haunt Simon and Robyn.
Taking the formula of the popular stranger/stalker thrillers that frequented the cinemas in the late 80’s and early 90’s, films like Pacific Heights and Single White Female, Edgerton has reinvented it, giving us a rich, character driven tale that thunders along at a nice pace, slowly building the tension along the way, so as to send knots into the viewer’s stomach. The three principles are not so much open, more ambiguous with their back story. You think you know them but actually you don’t.
What he also does extremely well is shift our emotional responses to each person. What starts off as one thing, soon becomes something else and you may pity one characters, you find yourself despising another. He cleverly sets up the film with us thinking one thing and by the end our opinions have completely changed.
I am trying to avoid telling you too much because the joy of watching this is knowing as little as possible and it would be cruel of me to let you in on the dark secrets along the way. What I can say is that for a first time behind the camera as a feature director, Edgerton has picked up some very good habits, using his glass house as a perfect part of the story, occasionally hinting story progression with lighting and, more importantly, writing a script with three strong central characters that you are drawn into their worlds.
Selflessly, Edgerton hasn’t given himself the lead, instead playing the slightly spooky Gordo. With his strange piercing eyes and almost plastic looking features, you are never sure what makes him so odd, yet you get the impression that not everything is right. Edgerton has created a terrific screen character that could go down as one of the creepiest.
In the best role he has had in ages, Jason Bateman excels as Simon, a man who has everything he wants and more, his is more than just a straight-forward yuppie-type. There is far more to him than meets the eye and Bateman plays it brilliantly. Then there’s Rebecca Hall as Robyn, a woman caught in the middle of lies and deceit and yet has her own secrets to hide. Her’s the most pivotal of all the roles and she proves what a terrific actress she is, making us really care about what happens.
If there are quibbles, then Robyn’s back story isn’t fully explained and I felt a little left wanting, while the ending does come across a little more crowd-pleasing than I would have liked but on the whole, The Gift is exactly that: a gripping, creepy, tense and smart thriller that teases you, plays with you yet delivers the goods as well. Caught up among the Summer blockbusters, this is a film that you must check out if you want something more than just popcorn fodder. You won’t be disappointed.