The original theatrical trailer for The Gift did little to spur my interest, a solid performance at the box office and some genuinely positive word of mouth caused me to reconsider, and boy am I glad I did. Actor Joel Edgerton makes his feature film directorial debut with The Gift, a low-key yet shockingly effective thriller that houses more surprises than the packaging suggested.
Produced by micro-budget master Jason Blum, The Gift is perhaps the most well-rounded movie to come out of the studio since the first Purge. Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall star as a seemingly happily married couple Simon and Robyn Callum living out their slice of the American dream. Their charmed life gets a rude awakening when they run into an old school friend of Simon’s named Gordo (Edgerton). At first his over eagerness to be part of their lives is politely tolerated, but after several thinly veiled threats, Simon demands than Gordo leaves them alone.
“Joel Edgerton directs and co-stars a tense Hitchcockian thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat.”
Everything returns to normal until the arrival of a gift from Gordo that brings ghosts from Simon’s past back to haunt his waking life. What you have to give Edgerton credit for is his ability to alter your expectations, at first it sets itself up as an extreme unrequited bromance shocker, and then it teases a home invasion style thriller before queuing up the mind games of the third act. Bateman can do affable charmer in his sleep, so it makes a welcome change to see him doing something outside of his usual comedy circles. Ultimately, Simon isn’t a hugely likeable guy; he was a bully at school and a thoughtless lie he told went on to destroy Gordo’s life.
Edgerton uses Gordo in short bursts yet his presence looms over the whole movies, when we first meet Gordo he seems like an awkward sort of chap who is pleased to see a familiar face. Before things take a dark turn, it’s difficult not to feel sorry for him despite his creepy disposition. Edgerton uses this sympathetic approach later on when Simon fails catastrophically to make an honest apology to the monster he helped make. Unlike other movies to go down this narrative path, The Gift makes a strong case for Gordo being a product of his circumstances rather than being an out and out psycho.
A strong directorial debut from Joel Edgerton, who delivers a nerve-shredding thriller and gives us an enjoyable dark gift worth opening.