Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall are a couple moving into a new home for a fresh start when they bump into Joel Edgerton a socially awkward face from Bateman’s past. They seem to get along at first but after Edgerton starts to give the couple a series of increasingly strange gifts their relationship starts to dissolve and it all gets a bit mental.
What the Gift is, is a film created by someone who clearly loves and knows the Psychological Thriller genre inside out. And as such it plays with and uses all of the tropes to its advantage. It knows how to control an audience and it knows how people will react to the things it does. While this is now really quite on overcrowded sub-genre, you won’t see many better. This really is top draw stuff.
Going into this I didn’t really know much about Joel Edgerton – all I had seen him in was Ridley Scott’s racists snore-fest Exodus in which he was underwhelming – however not only is he a far greater actor than Exodus showcased, but he is also a very fine Director. And after that you find out that he bloody wrote the thing as well. It’s rare someone in the film business is this good in so many different roles.
I think what perhaps separates The Gift from other more mediocre entries to the sub-genre of Psychological Thriller is that it doesn’t just resort to the basic role reversal that you see in some of these films. It goes beyond that and asks the viewer to decide which characters are redeemable or not. It’s also impeccably well-paced, it does start off gently but the characters are well written and interesting enough to pull it off, and it never accelerates fast enough to make it seem like its rushing or skipping over anything. It’s a constant gradual increase in pace eventually climaxing with several big reveals right at the end.
Probably because of Edgerton’s roots as an actor he has managed to coax career best performances from both Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall. Bateman especially has never been better than he is here. Usually known for his comic roles in films like Hancock and Horrible Bosses here he is a completely different person.
Overall, while The Gift has a familiar premise it has been made in such capable hands it feels like something you haven’t seen before. And honestly you’ve probably not seen it much better than this. A very strong Thriller.