The Gift

Release: Friday, August 7, 2015


Written by: Joel Edgerton

Directed by: Joel Edgerton

The Gift is a kind of addictive drug. The more of it you consume the more of it you want.

Considering this is the first time Australian actor Joel Edgerton has been in full control of a project, that may seem hyperbolic. However, the logic follows. Edgerton has proven over the course of a 17-year career on the big screen he’s able to do much with a bit of determination. And, well yeah, some pride and confidence. Edgerton’s not just talented but he’s principled. Criticism about projects he has chosen has rarely, if ever, questioned his faith in his own work. With resilience to spare, he continues to bear the marks of a reliable thespian. It would only make sense his efforts would translate to an altogether new aspect of filmmaking. This, the year 2015, would be the time to prove it.

The Gift, now almost three years in the making, is a gift to those who have kept the faith in him. As a mystery thriller it is incredibly tense, well-acted and the epitome of unpredictable. In it Edgerton co-stars alongside Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall, who play a recently relocated married couple settling into the sprawling suburbs of Los Angeles from their native Chicago. While shopping for home supplies, Simon (Bateman, in a compelling, atypically dramatic performance) bumps into someone who claims to recognize him from their high school days, a socially awkward but seemingly harmless Gordo (Edgerton). While the timing isn’t convenient to catch up in the store, Simon promises they will be in touch.

Simon is a partner in a billion-dollar company. His wife Robyn works from home as a designer. From what we gather initially the pair are but two seeds swept up in the current of modern day living, one that all but necessitates independent career earnings to support a family. Their beautiful home alone is but a part of a larger picture of success, and Simon and Robyn seem very happy together. One afternoon Gordo drops in unannounced; Robyn invites him in for a tour of their abode, not wanting to be rude to Simon’s ostensible old friend. This leads to a pleasant dinner later that evening, during which Simon and Gordo finally do some of that catching up. Most of it is casual chit-chat, but Edgerton being Edgerton, his character possesses a depth that jumpstarts his former classmate’s uptightness. An uptightness that gradually morphs into paranoia. Paranoia that evolves into legitimate suspicion.

The Gift is also written by the Aussie. On that front he proves himself a talent to keep watching, crafting a perpetual shape-shifter that creates at least as many questions as it does answers. That should be taken as a compliment of the highest order when it comes to the genre. Beyond an acting showcase — show me the role in which Jason Bateman has been better (or Rebecca Hall for that matter) — the film, particularly in its final moments, offers an adrenaline rush that manifests more as a high than anything else. Indeed if The Gift is a drug, it’s good for both the brain and body.

In an auspicious directing debut, Edgerton provides more than just sound narrative structure and an atmosphere in which his co-stars have clearly flourished — nevermind the fact that he shot his own role two weeks into production and in the span of a single week. He’s made his stance on childhood bullying abundantly clear. And of course he’s not content to stop there, evolving the conversation on the long-term effects of that infuriating reality into a discussion about how it takes a much darker and potentially more harmful turn when applied to adults engaging in such shameful behavior. If someone is looking for a fault in the film it’s that perhaps the issue is handled a little less than subtly in the pulse-pounding conclusion but that’s so incredibly secondary to the fact that he has taken this issue seriously, as it ought to be.

Recommendation: If you’re in the mood to be toyed with psychologically Joel Edgerton has the perfect film for you. Filled with deeply emotional performances and a wicked final (double) twist, his first shot at directing should earn him a score of new fans. This is pretty exciting stuff from a guy who’s always been reliable as an actor, and it’s safe to say this will go on to become a favorite for fans of the mystery thriller and intelligent, provocative filmmaking in general. The Gift is one of 2015’s greats. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 108 mins.

Quoted: “Good people deserve good things.”

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33 thoughts on “The Gift

  1. It’s always great when a film with critical acclaim meets your expectations. Reminded me of Hitchcock and I don’t toss than name around lightly. This one really delivered.

    • Nice pun.

      Edgerton certainly . . . delivers. . . quite a gift here, and it’s one that I really want to go back and watch again. And again. So many good scenes, so many twists and Edgerton’s delightfully disturbed performance was great. And then there was Bateman, playing really against type. Oh man, I loved this thing!

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  3. UIgh, even Aussie movies get to your theatres before they get to ours. I didn’t read your review because I’m counting the days for this release but good to see a perfect score. Edgerton and his brother are a force, great to see Joel getting some US recognition. So much that you get to see this movie before me!!! Damn you!!! 😛

    • Lol that’s ironic. I see it as more of an American film with an Aussie director, but still. The fact it is made by a high-profile Australian and you don’t yet have it gives me a slight fit of giggles. Even though that’s gotta be ultra-frustrating. 😉

      The wait will be worth it (I assume anyway). This thing rocks.

      • Yeah as soon as I read the premise I didn’t wanna read anymore so I could go in blind like I usually do. But goddamn, almost every single film is delayed here. Like they send the film reels by fucking sea or something. It comes out on the 27th but still, fuck it makes me angry. Fucking Mad Max played here the same time as the US, and that didn’t even have any major Australian actors in it. Blurgh =/

        • Yeah that’s gotta be irritating. The same kind of applies to some of my blogging friends in South Africa, they get majorly delayed releases (if they get them at all). I don’t think they got that big Noah movie from last year. It’s weird. I wish global releases were just all at the same time. i don’t know what’s to be gained by off-setting releases nationally. Stupid turds.

          • Yeah I know right? It doesn’t make any sense. And there are soooooo many movies I read on your blog that never see the light of day. In fact, it does make sense. Its all about the $$$, and fact is no one here gives a shit about real film. its all superheros and franchises. I just saw Mr Holmes on opening night… there were five other people in the cinema.

            • Yeah, right on about the money. That’s totally what it is.

              In fairness about Mr. Holmes i don’t think a lot of people even knew about what that was supposed to be. Very poor marketing surrounding that one. i didn’t even bother with it, even though I like Ian McKellen quite a lot. Sometimes I like it when there’s not a crowded theater though. It’s peaceful haha

              • oh I totally loved the peaceful theater. It just sucks knowing that I live in an area where such films attract so few people. I’m surprised it was playing at all if I’m honest, it was even playing a fortnight later than other states in Australia!! Go figure that out, that’s like a film releasing in New York on one day then releasing on the west coast two weeks later.

                In fairness though, Adelaide isn’t really a capital city, more a capital town. We barely have a million people here! I guess I should be thankful for any non blockbuster that makes its way to our screens. Wild Tales was another one that took a month to get here after it hit Melbourne. A whole month!!

  4. WHOA!! A full score! Bummer that I missed the press screening but I will definitely rent this for Edgerton! I like him as an actor and sounds like he’s an adept director as well, glad to hear. This isn’t gory is it Tom? I don’t mind mystery/suspense, just not too much blood.

    • No, no gore to be found here. Just a well-crafted story and some remarkable performances, especially from Bateman and Edgerton. I debated for quite some time between a 7 and an 8 but in the end, had to go with the perfect score. It’s a fantastic film. If you do go see it I can’t wait to see a review from you. I feel like I’m overpraising a bit here but I’ve seen it elsewhere given some really high marks as well. What a great start for Edgerton as director.

  5. I have to admit I dismissed this after seeing the trailer a few weeks ago. Given your review (and one or two other positive ones I’ve read in newspapers) it looks like I made a mistake. I’ll try and get to see this tomorrow but there are a few films out this week that I want to catch. Busy times!

    • On the surface The Gift appears like an average movie. And quite honestly for the opening 20 or so minutes it may even confirm such suspicions. But then it really starts to build and I found myself utterly entranced. I haven’t clenched the armrests on my chair quite that hard in some time. This has a great shot of landing in my Top 3 of the year. At the very least, top 5. 😀

      I wish I had some more cash floating around, I’d be getting to the theater much more often myself. It’s a lot of Netflix watches these days for me. I think I’ll be getting out to see Straight Outta Compton and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. this weekend, though. can’t wait!

      • Wow – that good?! I had to take my car in for repairs so can’t get to the cinema again until Friday, but will go and see The Gift (presuming it’s still on – things appear for a week sometimes and then disappear!). Enjoy the weekend watches.

  6. Really great review. I liked the trailer but wouldn’t have pegged it for one the year’s best. I’m even more curious about it now that I’ve read your review and the double twist sounds exciting.

    • The Gift is astonishly well put-together and especially for a first-time director. Mind you, Joel Edgerton is hardly new to the filmmaking game so maybe the surprise isn’t quite as big. But I loved this movie. It got extra love from me because of Jason Bateman’s turn

  7. Beautiful write-up. I haven’t seen eveything this year obviously, but from what I have laid eyes on and watched, this is in my top 5. Can’t wait to buy this on Blu-Ray.

    • Appreciate it man, It’ll easily fit into my top five as well. This was just so damn good. I couldn’t predict at all the ending, and I’m more often than not decent at doing so when it comes to these kinds of movies. What a nice surprise this was.

    • James I hope you enjoy it. It might be a bit overly enthusiastic giving it a perfect score but I really thought this was an incredibly well-made film, especially from a directorial debut standpoint. Edgerton is a great actor but he has a future as a director too if this is any indication.

  8. Saw a clip of this and Bateman really looked like he was knocking it out of the park. This has just emerged on these shores. To be honest I’ll probably wait for it to arrive on Netflix but I imagine I’ll enjoy it!

    • Bateman’s great, Hall is really solid (the emotional core, really), and Edgerton in his role is really excellent as well. As a director he’s even better. The Gift is a must-see, I don’t care what format you see it in buddy! 😀 I hope you enjoy yourself.

    • Yes, it’s a very provocative thriller. Well-acted and very unpredictable. I loved every minute of it! Thanks for stopping in and leaving your thoughts.

    • I think it’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year. That might be due to how much I believe in Edgerton, the guy can pretty much do no wrong in my eyes. But as a director he’s going to be one to watch I think. Go check it out man. 🙂

  9. My daughter has been intrigued with this from the first trailer. Obviously, she knows what I should see. Definitely seeing this now. Fine review, Tom.

    • Thank you! She’s got a good eye, I’ll say that for sure! The Gift is great. I’m on the fence when it comes to modern day mystery/thriller type stories because a lot of them just incorporate jump scares as part of the package. This one is wholly cerebral and really unnerving. Loved it.

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