The Gift (Blu-ray) (2015)

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Released 30-Dec-2015

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Audio Commentary-with Writer/Director Joel Edgerton and Editor Luke Doolan
Alternate Ending
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-The Darker Side of Jason Bateman
Featurette-Karma For Bullies
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2015
Running Time 107:50
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Joel Edgerton
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Jason Bateman
Rebecca Hall
Joel Edgerton
Allison Tolman
Adam Lazarre-White
Tim Griffin
Beau Knapp
Wendell Pierce
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $24.95 Music Danny Bensi
Saunder Jurriaans


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Dolby Digital 2.0
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

†††† Jason Blum has carved out a lucrative career as a producer by backing low-budget horror flicks, leading to about as many dexterous fright machines (Insidious, Sinister) as flaccid misfires (The Purge, Ouija, The Lazarus Effect). But 2015ís The Gift is a different animal altogether. Rather than a tacky horror pic, this directorial debut for Joel Edgerton is a Hitchcockian psychological thriller, relying on proper suspense, competent storytelling and powerful acting. Also written by Edgerton, the narrative is built on the simple premise of what would transpire if the bully and the bullied are reunited decades on, and the result is confidently unpredictable and deliciously intriguing. Itís the perfect antithesis to the yearís noisy blockbusters, and though it does have its shortcomings, itís easy to admire Edgertonís valiant efforts on the picture.

†††† Finding a new job outside the city, Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) move to a suburban Los Angeles neighbourhood where Simon grew up, ready for a fresh start. The couple are still haunted by traumas of the past, with Robyn opting to work from home while she deals with her mental roadblocks. While shopping, the pair is approached by Gordon (Joel Edgerton), an old classmate of Simonís who seems to have good intentions, latching onto the married couple instantly. In ensuing weeks, Gordon sends gifts and shows up at the coupleís residence unannounced. Robyn finds Gordon to be nice enough, despite his social oddness and palpable loneliness, but something about Gordon just rubs Simon the wrong way. Moreover, Simon is uncomfortable discussing past events, prompting Robyn to investigate Gordonís history with Simon.

†††† Edgerton, an Australian actor who has starred in dozens of movies over the past two decades, is not new to screenwriting; he wrote Felony and had a hand in penning the insanely underrated The Square. Itís clear that his past experiences have served him well - The Gift may be imbued with familiar tropes, but the script manages to subvert expectations at every turn, creating an air of head-slapping ambiguity, and it helps that the execution is so thoroughly engaging, revealing darker depths and layers to the story that we might not have expected from the outset. Itís the way Edgerton plays with expectations that elevates The Gift above less skilful thriller efforts, questioning who the real villain is and raising tension as the story plays out. Even though the story climaxes with a sense of righteous vengeance, the movie nevertheless closes on a note of solemnity and loss, with scars of the past still as tender as ever. Even though The Gift isnít the most pleasant motion picture, itís certainly a harrowing watch.

†††† Itís clear that Edgerton is a major talent behind the camera, drawing influence from the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and David Fincher, with a touch of Roman Polanskiís Rosemaryís Baby. The first-time director shows particular promise as an architect of discomfort, with the script merely suggesting that Gordon has an insidious plan for the couple, even when thereís little evidence to definitively confirm the accusations. Admittedly, a few instances of jump-scare theatrics do not entirely gel with the slow-burning nature of the narrative, but the two or three silly moments arenít enough to undo the movieís limitless strengths. Edgerton was nervous about directing his first production, especially since he was also required to act, ultimately bringing in his more experienced brother Nash (who helmed The Square) to assist. The Gift benefits from the slick, polished cinematography by Eduard Grau, while the picture is tautly edited by Luke Doolan, with no scene or moment outstaying its welcome. Every cent of the $5 million budget was visibly put to great use, while the score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans is pulsing and atmospheric, impeccably complementing the visuals.

†††† Who knew Jason Bateman was such an adept dramatic performer? The actor is frequently the proverbial straight man in comedies, but here he utterly disappears into the role of Simon, and it really is a sight to behold. He sells fear and frustration, on top of being enormously charismatic and likeable, and an emotionally charged scene of Robyn confronting Simon about his past behaviours features the best acting of Batemanís career. Bateman nails it, showing that we really have underestimated him for so many years, and further roles in this vein would be an enticing prospect. Equally terrific is Edgerton, who puts his all into the role of ďGordo,Ē delivering a tremendously assured and above all nuanced performance unlike anything the actor has ever done. And best of all, no trace of artifice betrays his acting; his Aussie accent never shines through. A director starring in his own movie may seem gimmicky, but itís hard to imagine any other actor filling this pivotal role. Hall, meanwhile, confidently keeps pace with her co-stars, perhaps delivering the finest performance in the movie, which is not a statement to be taken lightly. Astonishingly believable from start to finish, Hall is able to convey what sheís feeling just with her eyes; she says so much with minimal dialogue. This is very much an actorís movie, thus itís fortunate that the trio of leads are so pitch-perfect.

†††† The Gift does fall short of perfection, with subplots involving Robynís drug abuse and Simonís paranoia that are ultimately undercooked, but itís nevertheless one of the strongest thrillers to be produced under the Blumhouse banner. Whatís particularly remarkable about The Gift is that itís not a thriller in which characters accept pre-defined roles of good and evil, with the layered, complex leads elevating what would otherwise be a paint-by-numbers fright machine. Add in a daring conclusion that examines the grey-scale morality of the parties involved, and you have one of the most satisfying movie-going surprises of 2015.

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Transfer Quality

Video

†††† Roadshow presents The Gift in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio (OAR is 2.39:1), via the MPEG-4 AVC video codec. I beheld the movie theatrically at the cinema, and it must be said that the resulting 1080p high definition transfer is a bit underwhelming on the whole, and doesnít look as refined as most new release Blu-rays. It doesnít look as impressive as it did at the cinema, either.

†††† Perhaps owing to the digital photography and the compression required for 1080p, thereís a certain haze to the image, with mediocre detail and sharpness, and the video lacks vibrancy. While the transfer serves up basic texture on skin and clothing that we expect from HD, itís not as precise or as intricate as other recent productions. At a certain distance, the transfer looks fine, but a closer examination is not as flattering.

†††† The Gift is a seriously dark movie, with a drained colour palette by design. At least the transfer is faithful to the source in this respect, with colours looking identical to how they were presented at the cinema. Thankfully, no encoding anomalies crop up, with a miraculous lack of black crush despite the darkness of the image. No aliasing or banding either, though there is a layer of noise that lacks refinement.

†††† I feel that The Gift could look better on disc, perhaps via an Ultra HD release, but this transfer is nevertheless respectable and serviceable. The Blu-ray contains only an English subtitle track, and I had no issues with it.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
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Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

†††† There are three audio options on this disc: the main track, an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, a lossy alternative Dolby Digital 2.0 track, and the audio commentary. I was solely interested in the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, and its good news for the most part.

†††† Being a $5 million psychological thriller, The Gift is not flashy from an audio perspective; itís certainly not going to contain reference-quality surround since this is a movie more concerned with dialogue and atmosphere, rather than action scenes. Dialogue is well-prioritised, never being drowned out by other sounds, while the pulsing score is impactful and effectively mixed. Other minor sound effects are well integrated into the track, from alarms to glass shattering, and a dog bark during one particular intense scene.

†††† On the whole, The Gift sounds perfectly crisp, and the audio track is entirely devoid of issues. Itís an ideal replication of the experience at the cinema.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

†††† Disappointingly, the supplemental package here is tiny. A cursory YouTube search revealed more insightful behind-the-scenes featurettes than those that appear on this disc.

Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Joel Edgerton and Editor Luke Doolan

†††† Edgerton sits down with editor Luke Doolan for a scene-by-scene breakdown of the movie, mostly concerned with the technical aspects of the production, his inspirations, and observations about the filmís themes, in lieu of just fun production trivia. Since this was Edgertonís first effort as a director, he does touch upon the more intimidating aspects of the process, and what surprised him. Edgerton admires the cast, talks about his intentions with individual scenes and how he strived to achieve them, and thereís back-and-forth between Edgerton and Doolan about how various scenes were trimmed or rearranged. At times Edgerton just analyses the obvious undertones of plot points and scenes, but there is still a solid enough track that fans of the movie should listen to.

Alternate Ending (HD; 6:36)

†††† Edgerton provides a brief introduction to this alternate ending, which provides an additional glimpse into Gordoís side of things during the story. Itís easy to see why this was cut since, as Edgerton himself points out, it doesnít quite fit the flow of the movie and perhaps provides too much information since some aspects of the story are better left ambiguous, but this is nevertheless worth watching.

Deleted Scenes (HD; 11:51)

†††† Four deleted and extended scenes are included here, all with introductions from Joel Edgerton. No individual scene selection is available; the scenes are played in one big chunk. I doubt any of these would have worked in the final cut, but itís nevertheless interesting to see what was excised.

The Darker Side of Jason Bateman (HD; 1:05)

†††† Well, this is useless. A YouTube-style featurette with brief input from Edgerton on the thought process behind Batemanís role, intercut with a heap of clips from the movie.

Karma For Bullies (HD; 1:54)

†††† Another worthless piece about the film, this time an extended trailer with a few interview clips of Edgerton and Bateman. You can legitimately find more informative behind-the-scenes extras for free on YouTube.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

† † The Region A release from Universal is pretty similar to the local disc, but has differing subtitle and audio options. The American disc does have commentary for the deleted scenes that's not on our edition, but lacks the introductions available on our disc. Perhaps the content is identical? Whatever the case, it hardly seems worth importing. Draw.

Summary

†††† The Gift was mismarketed as just another "creep stalks a couple" horror, which does a tremendous injustice to this layered, profound, compelling psychological thriller. I cannot wait for Edgerton to direct more movies.

†††† Roadshow's Blu-ray is a mixed bag, with decent if unspectacular video, excellent audio, and a disappointing selection of special features. Nevertheless, this is a great movie that's worth owning.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Friday, January 08, 2016
Review Equipment
DVDPlayStation 4, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42LW6500. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationLG BH7520TW
SpeakersLG Tall Boy speakers, 5.1 set-up, 180W

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