Movie Review: “The Gift” thrills and chills

“The Gift” lives up to its name. After a summer of less successful blockbusters than hoped for, this film overcomes its deceptively campy trailer and marketing and delivers an outstanding psychological thriller. Set in the Hollywood Hills, the film follows Simon and Robyn, a young married couple moving into their new beautiful home while trying to start a family. When they run into Gordo, one of Simon’s old high school classmates, a polite attempt at a forced new friendship with him turns into a stalker nightmare.

This film genuinely surprised me. Going into it, its premise sounded so painfully by the numbers I was confident I could more or less guess the entire plot, and to the film’s credit I never could. Every single time without fail that I thought I could see what a scene was building up to or when a cliche was coming, the film would put its own fresh twist on the story and subvert the cliche. The tension and paranoia in this story are palpable, the build up to each scare is weighty and satisfying.

Jason Bateman as the successful, charismatic Simon gives his most dynamic performance to date. He isn’t playing the pure as snow suburban everyman we’ve come to typecast him as, Bateman truly took a risk with this role and it paid off in spades. Rebecca Hall as Robyn, Simon’s wife in the dark about what past transgression could have triggered Gordo’s obsession, was easily likeable. Who truly stole the show, though, was Joel Edgerton as our unhinged stalker Gordo. Not only did he co-star in this film, but he also wrote the script and directed it (his first venture into directing, mind you. I defy you to say that’s not impressive.

“The Gift” is easily one of my favorite films of the year. It builds dramatic tension, consciously evades easy cliches and predictability and leaves you with chills. The cast, the script, the direction, the slow panning of the camera creating a sense of claustrophobia -it all works beautifully. If you love a good thriller and want to see something fresh and original, I’m recommending this.

Verdict: 5/5 stars