Joel Edgerton's debut feature The Gift is a well-acted and perfectly paced thriller that keeps you guessing constantly thanks to Edgerton's clever script and an ensemble cast that delivers consistently and impressively. The less you know about this film going in the better -- it effectively catches you off guard and continues to make you guess until the very end.
Actor turned writer/director Joel Edgerton has knocked it completely out of the park with his debut feature The Gift. This is a film that will catch most off guard as it unravels and unwinds into something of sheer cinematic brilliance. The Gift is an airtight roller coaster of thrills and emotions and it’s the best surprise of the summer.
Simon (Jason Bateman) seems to have his entire life figured out. He’s just re-located to California with his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) due to a promotion at his job and he’s currently seeking another one. The two are also working on having a child, which would help Robyn as she transitions to working from home as Simon spends most of his day at the office.
One afternoon the two run into an old friend of Simon named Gordo (Joel Edgerton) and suddenly Simon’s past is thrown on display as Gordo begins leaving weird gifts and cryptic messages once Simon and Rebecca decide that they don’t want to have anything to do with him.
Joel Edgerton‘s The Gift is the kind of film that thrives on mystery and if I were to say anything more I’d be ruining the film’s best moments. The less you know going into this film the better, because it truly is this summer’s best kept secret.
Edgerton has somehow made the leap from acting to writing & directing without so much as a fumble as he weaves together one of the most intense films of the year without barely shedding any blood. It’s also refreshing to know that The Gift does not have any sort of paranormal connections, despite being produced by Blumhouse Productions.
The film’s key success lies in its trifecta of writing, directing and acting.
Edgerton’s script knows precisely when to shake things up and keep the twists coming. It never bothers wasting a second on something that doesn’t come into play in a big way later on in the film. Somehow, Edgerton’s film manages to take such a light premise and unravel it into a fascinating dissection of guilt and ego.
Time definitely doesn’t heal everything and The Gift reminds us just how dangerous one’s past can be as Jason Bateman‘s Simon goes from being a hard-working husband with a clear path to success to a man with a possible shady history that also hints at what kind of person Simon actually is.
Bateman’s portrayal of a somewhat cocky and smug man with a respectable amount of confidence is a refreshing change of pace for the actor. He’s normally the pushover and he does that role well, but watching him flip that concept and completely embody the over-powering type is the best definition of true acting. He steps completely out of his comfort zone and yet he fits like a glove.
Rebecca Hall gives Robyn some dynamic as well, slowly shedding her own secrets as the film progresses and quickly becomes more about what kind of people Simon and Rebecca really are versus the type of people that they seem to be.
If anyone gets the short end of the stick here its Joel Edgerton, which is to be expected given his character’s nature and the fact that he also wrote and directed the film. Edgerton’s Gordo is the perfect amount of charming and weird, constantly edging closer to the bizarre, yet still remaining on the border of being that sort of annoying friend versus being a complete creeper.
Still, Gordo’s creepy in all of the right ways and watching Edgerton constantly remain calm and collected when he has all the rights to be upset and furious gives Gordo a quiet, but powerful clutch on the entire film.
Edgerton somehow manages to keep that same calm and collected control over the entire film, showing an incredible amount of class and expertise as a filmmaker that more than surprised and impressed me. The Gift feels like a film from a well-established filmmaker and not an actor turned writer/director working on his first full-length feature.
The direction is always sharp and spot-on, leaving little room for error and luckily there’s not a spot of it to be found throughout the entire film, unless you absolutely hate left feeling both scared and helpless and Edgerton reveals stylistically just how far the film is willing to go.
The film may appear as just another jump-scare horror film with a simple agenda, but it actually dives headfirst into some thick material and it handles everything in a way that keeps you on the edge of your seat and constantly surprised.
The Gift is a heart-pounding film that’s dark, brooding and full of twists. It’s not only the most intense film of the summer, but one of the best films of the year. Joel Edgerton has suddenly jumped up to the top of the list of director’s to keep an eye on, while also giving one his best performances, alongside Jason Bateman‘s most invested and challenging role yet, while Rebecca Hall breaks the mold and gives an equally important performance that gives the film its much-needed balance.
Don’t waste a single second missing out on the biggest surprise of the summer. See The Gift as soon as you get a chance.