The Gift carries so many familiar moments, details and plot points
within its intriguing story that at times it feels like an old friend.
And, like an old friend, it proves to be entertaining, annoying,
surprising and frustrating in quick succession. It is not the most
original film you will ever see, for in its story of a small-town
psychic whose 'gift' is used to help solve the murder of a young girl,
it taps into something of a modern trend.
There is also a predictably sour portrait of the American South - how the local tourist board must have laughed when they heard that Billy Bob Thornton had set his new script in their neck of the woods - resulting in a film which comes dangerously close to cliché and self-parody. That it ultimately avoids these things, and manages to hold our attention for as long as it does, is a result of Raimi's skilful direction and a clutch of compelling performances.
Raimi, who made his mark in the 's with the infamous Evil Dead films, is certainly capable of making an audience jump, and his distinct eye for visual storytelling shines through as he pollutes the screen with strange, ghostly images.
With Cate Blanchett in the lead role he also benefits from a leading
lady who totally immerses herself in her character. There seem to be no
tics or physical traits that she carries from one role to another, and
here she is utterly convincing as the well-meaning Southern widow with a gift that, at times, seems more like a curse.
Add to this a scarily impressive performance by Keanu Reeves as a wife-beating redneck, and altogether more controlled turns from Ribisi,
Kinnear and Holmes, and you have a film rich in fascinating detail but
which somehow leaves you feeling a little deflated, disappointed that
you've seen it all before.
Despite a second half that lacks invention, this is still an enjoyable,
scary 'whodunit' thriller, skilfully directed by Raimi and beautifully
lead by Blanchett.