The Gift Blu-ray Review
Simon and Robyn Callum are new to California, having moved from Chicago so Simon could start a new job. They purchase a new house, which features a modern interior, a gorgeous view of the city and even a koi pond (albeit an empty one).
At the mall, a man watches from a distance. After a few moments, he approaches Simon (Jason Bateman, Shawn Levy’s THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU) and says, “I think I know you.” It turns out he is a former high school classmate named Gordon “Gordo” Mosley (Joel Edgerton, who plays John G. Morris in this year’s LIFE). One night, Simon comes home to a bottle of wine with a bow on it, a gift from Gordo. Robyn (Rebecca Hall, Wally Pfister’s TRANSCENDENCE) wonders how he got their address, and then so, too, does the audience. Still, she finds him to be sweet and harmless, much to the dismay of her husband.
Regardless, the Callums have Gordo over for dinner. This triggers some uncomfortable conversation and an agreement that they don’t have to see their guest again. A few nights later, they’re met more gifts: fish for the pond and an invitation to dinner. Simon’s suspicions grow deeper, while Robyn continues to give Gordo the benefit of the doubt, despite his showing up and abruptly leaving at odd times. The doubts shift onto Simon when a secret is revealed about both her husband and the guest…(This raises a question that might better be labeled a fault in the story: even the most reasonable person would find someone sneaking onto their property worthy of a call to the cops, or at least a taller fence.)
From the moment Gordo appears behind a window at the mall, THE GIFT works in making the viewer uneasy. There is a level of tension for the duration that shifts focus as the story progresses—in one scene we’re wondering what Gordo has in store for the dinner party; in another we’re concerned where the family dog is; in another we’re compelled by what Robyn will find in Simon’s office. With most of the moments there is an unexpected reveal, which build the situations as more complex than some of the characters might be comfortable with.
THE GIFT is the directorial debut of Edgerton, who also wrote the screenplay (he also penned 2014’s THE ROVER, 2013’s FELONY and more). With this effort, he has concocted a quite unnerving thriller, using certain shots to lend to a feeling of dread and a talented cast to flesh out the characters that he created (this is Bateman’s finest dramatic turn). Edgerton shows no fear in the subject matter or twisting audience expectations. For the bulk of the movie, we think we’re watching a movie about a creep stalking an innocent couple, only to realize that the themes fall closer to the point that the past might come back to haunt us. This is the sort of pull that might come off inorganic, but it’s cleverly done and so serves to make THE GIFT one of the better psychological thrillers in years.
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. THE GIFT has a fairly limited color range, but the tones and shadows are still presented nicely in this transfer. Details and textures are also strong throughout.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English Dolby Digital 2.0/5.1. Subtitles in English, Spanish and French. Dialogue is clear while the sound effects and score offer an eerie atmosphere that lends to the chills.
Feature commentary with writer/director Joel Edgerton: Edgerton offers a fine commentary in which he discusses the production, plot, cast and more of his directorial debut.
Karma for Bullies (1:54) covers the movie’s plot and some of the ideas it approaches.
The Darker Side of Jason Bateman (1:05) brushes Bateman’s dramatic side.
Deleted Scenes (7:55): There are four here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “Simon Beats Gordo in the Garage,” “Ron and Lucy,” “First Cop Scene” and “Second Cop Scene.” Also included is an optional Introduction by writer/director Joel Edgerton.
Alternate Ending (4:38), available with an optional Introduction by writer/director Joel Edgerton.