Didn’t Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven, Traffic) announce his retirements at one stage, or did I dream that? Either way the man continues to deliver movies including this latest psychological thriller starring The Crown’s Clare Foy who plays Sawyer, a woman who has started a new job in a new city after running from a stalker. However after an intended one night stand goes awry, she turns to a psychiatrist to tackle some of her demons. Problem is she unwittingly signs herself into a psychiatric institute and is unable to leave for seven days. Is she losing her mind and has her stalker returned?
Soderberg’s movie has an immediately unsettling aesthetic. Filmed believe it or not entirely on an iPhone, and with claustrophobic, unconventional filming techniques that makes everything seem dream-like … it was easy for me to go along with the paranoia and hopelessness of Sawyer’s plight. Once the hospital becomes the main location, the way the movie questions what is real and what might be in Sawyer’s head is very well done. Foy is brilliant, damaged and vulnerable making her one of those actors that really becomes the character. Support from genre icon Amy Irving (Carrie) was welcome if under-used and along with a creepy stalker this ticked all my boxes.
I’d have liked the ‘is she imagining it?’ element explored a little more than it was as it kind of turns into a typical thriller in the final act … but along with plenty of atmosphere and a few genuine shocks, I really enjoyed this.
Jason Bateman for as long as he’s been around, has never really been the sort of actor that guarantees bums on seats. He’s been known for TV sitcoms like Arrested Development and a wealth of comedy movies such as Horrible Bosses. Yet I’ve always liked him and always look forward to seeing him in stuff. This latest thriller has him as a successful business man who has recently moved into a nice up-market neighbourhood with his beautiful wife (Rebecca Hall). The perfect little life, until that is an old school friend bumps into him one day and gradually starts muscling his way into their lives. Gordo (Joel Edgerton) seems nice, normal if a little awkward and pushy, but mostly harmless – or is he?
Classic psychological thriller territory for sure, think The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Single White Female etc. and you’ll get the idea. However this has a stand out performance from Bateman, who shows a depth and complexity to his character I wasn’t expecting. Also Edgerton as Gordo (who also directs) is perfectly strange and mysterious and possibly psychotic – but balances the uncertainty well. The movie mostly focuses however on Hall’s character who is vulnerable and troubled, with a past hinting at something that went wrong (possibly a miscarriage) between the couple and how the new home is a new start. I enjoyed this as it played with genre conventions, threw in a few excellent jump-scares and kept me guessing.
It’s fairly safe in it’s concept and certainly could have elaborated more on things with the odd flash back, as I came away still asking questions about these characters. There was also potential for the story to go to much darker depths. But these are small gripes and overall The Gift was a gripping and well written thriller that surprised and entertained in equal measure.
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