The Gift brings back to fashion the Stalker films. The film boasts of a story that is relatively fresh even though it has shades of Oldboy. What really works well for the film is the simmering drama that the three major characters of the film are able to conjure between themselves. Young and charismatic, Simon (Jason Bateman) meets Gordo (Joel Edgerton) at a shopping mall. Simon has just moved into the town with his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall). Gordo was in school with Simon and the two exchange numbers to meet up later. However, Gordo finds out their address and drops off gifts which the couple admires to start with.
Following a dinner that turns out to be extremely uncomfortable, thanks to what Gordo has to say about Simon, Simon requests Gordo to stop seeing them. However that is not to be as you might already know. As the film progresses, new truths are revealed about Simon which makes his wife think whether she knows her husband in the first place. Gordo turns out to be someone who was wronged by Simon in his school days and might be looking for revenge by tormenting their family now. Things keep getting worse as time progresses. Simon finally encounters Gordo and tries to make peace with him. But it’s too late for that. What happens next? How does Gordo extract his revenge? What wrong had Simon done to him? Will Simon be able to save himself and his family from Gordo’s wrath? These are just some of the questions that drive the narrative of the film.
The Gift boasts of a splendid screenplay which is laced with twists and turns. Most of the stalker movies tend to be a tad bit partial to the stalker. The best scenes, scares and the eeriness of the mood is attributed to the stalkers who are there to torment the protagonist. Here, Edgerton, in his directorial debut, takes a departure from that tradition by implying throughout the film that the stalker might just be the good guy. He also makes the stalker vulnerable and in key scenes, he is easily over powered by the protagonist. Thus imagine the audience’s surprise and sheer shock when in the end, he comes out trumps. That there is in many ways the biggest USP of the film.
The three principal characters are terrific. Edgerton plays Gordo as if his life depended on it. Throughout his essay, he never seems out of place for a second. What I loved about his act was the simplicity that he has to most of his gestures and dialogs. He never for a second feels out of pitch. He has a strange calm and suave demeanor about himself which makes him that much more interesting. Jason Bateman has many shades to his character. He starts off as a charismatic and loveable husband but as the film progresses his character metamorphs into a bully and despicable personality who would stop at nothing to get things to be the way he wants it to be. Rebecca Hall is the third and most important entity out of the trio. She is the one who uncovers the dirty secrets about her husband. She is helped in her endeavors by multiple entities but she is our eyes and ears to see and judge the two men.
With each expose, the story takes a turn. What was interesting to watch is the fact that in spite of not having a single action sequence, a single chase sequence and hardly any jump out of your seat moments, how immersive the screenplay remains. 10 minutes into the film and I was totally taken over by the story. It takes a class act to achieve that. Joel Edgerton in his first outing as a director has hit a home run. Not only does he get it spot on in the acting department, he is more than efficient as the director, making a film which will make you stand up and take notice. The Gift is an edge of the seat thriller which plays on your imagination. The way the film culminates makes you rethink your feelings for Gordo and Simon which I felt was a masterstroke.
For those with penchant for watching meaningful and aesthetically functional thrillers, The Gift is a worthy watch. This year has been good for thrillers and if you are lover of that genre, then this is a gift you should give yourself definitely.