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Samuel Weiss-Cowie

United States

The Gift-A Story of the Past, Worthy of the Present

January 18, 2016

    The Gift  is a twisting trail of suspense, deception, and horror, bringing viewers an unpredictable and intriguing experience that has become increasingly rare in the plethora of mediocre films produced today.  All too often, films like The Gift, thrillers, lack any real substance and rely on shiny action sequences or monstrous creatures to elicit reactions from audiences.  This film however, is different.  Not only does it provide immense enjoyment on a basic level, The Gift also allows for true reflections on the nature of human relationships, the torpor that living in the past brings, and the disguises that many people wear.
    The story follows Simon and Robyn Callum (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall), a married couple hoping for a child and moving from Chicago to Simon's hometown in California.  As they settle into their new lives, Robyn and Simon meet an old acquaitance of Simon's, Gordon "Gordo" Mosely (Joel Edgerton), who has an awkward conversational demeanor. He provides them with a friendly welcome and several gifts at their front doorstep over the coming days.  Although his intentions appear benign, Gordo, and his interest in Robyn, make Simon uneasy.  He voices his concerns to Robyn, who brushes off his fears as unfounded. Gordon continues to visit Robyn while Simon is at work devoting all his effort to securing a promotion.  As time goes on, Simon becomes harsher towards Gordo without explaining to Robyn why. When previously hidden events of the past surface, tensions rise between the Callums, and Gordo's visits become ever more suspicious, even to Robyn.  Although the apparent threat of Gordo seems to disappear later, Robyn never feels truly safe.
    Director Joel Edgerton has made a strong debut onto the directing scene with The Gift.  He has expertly created a true horror film, one in which people are the monsters and many characters are quite different from how they appear.  Not only is The Gift a startlingly realistic horror story, but it is also deeply psychological.  It relies less on cheap jumpscares, and more on the wild capacity of the human imagination.  The myriad scenes that see Robyn alone play upon the nightmares humans create for themselves, even in the absence of danger.  
    The movie's numerous shifts between suspense and calm are made clear by the music of Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans.  The Gift's score excellently augments audiences' feelings of uneasiness, and is a shining example of how a horror and thriller film's track should be written.  In fact, the music brings necessary spirit into many of the film's scenes, in which otherwise the mood would be unclear.  
    The three lead actors all provide exhilarating performances.  Bateman gives a dynamic showing, portraying a nuanced character believably and with ease, while Hall slips into her role with the confidence that her character lacks.  Her superb work carries the film through several scenes that would otherwise be emotionless.  Meanwhile, Edgerton maintains a creeping presence that keeps viewers on edge.  They are supported by several other actors, whose presences add necessary elements to the plot without detracting from the focus of the film.
    Although The Gift represents a cinematic feat in multiple categories, its finest quality is undoubtedly its unpredictability.  While many films close with the cookie-cutter ending of the hero surviving and living happily ever (that audiences can predict before the opening credits role), this movie is different.  Viewers are guaranteed to be shocked by the places The Gift goes, the paths it follows, and must see the film if they desire to experience a refreshing, thrilling, and startlingly possible cinematic voyage.

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