2014 / Director. Phillip Noyce.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
THE GIVER surprised me. It could have so easily become a typical bland teen sci-fi and all of the publicity surrounding it suggested that that's exactly what it is. With the hysteria of THE HUNGER GAMES buzzing around Hollywood, THE GIVER was a logical opportunity to capitalize on that success. Fortunately for audiences, it has the right people behind it to keep it modest. It had been a pet project of Jeff Bridges for over 20 years and he has made several attempts to get it made in the past. Now that the cinematic climate is right for it, he has surrounded the project with a strong support network and Aussie director Phillip Noyce is at the helm. Where THE HUNGER GAMES is a dystopian science fiction story, THE GIVER is a utopian one. Set at an unknown point in the distant future the world has all but destroyed itself and civilisation has been reduced to small communities living on the fringes. A technology was designed to rid them of all memory and mandatory daily injections keep their emotional state in check. Their society is governed by strict rules and the concepts of the old world are lost... ie love, hurt, anger, hate, famine, destruction, loss etc.. The lives of the citizens are pre-determined and from conception they are assigned a family. When they come of age they are assigned their purpose (job). To keep order they select just one person to be The Receiver... a person to contain all knowledge and memories of the past so that the wrongs of the forgotten world cannot be repeated. Jeff Bridges is that man and as he gets older and nears his end-days a new, younger, receiver is chosen. Bridges becomes The Receiver and must bestow all of his knowledge upon his new protege. The concepts behind this film are familiar and similar worlds have been presented to us on film before. From classic Orwell to some of Philip K Dick's work... and there's a whole lot of similarity with Jeanne DuPrau's EMBER series (which was published after The Giver). And so what makes THE GIVER stand out is it's style and method of storytelling. Much of the film is told in black & white, which is a contrived convention but works in its favour. As the knowledge of the past is exchanged, the new receiver begins to see things differently. A wonderful performance from Bridges definitely helps solidify the film and the support cast keep it modest too with Meryl Streep playing the community leader. She truly proves herself to be one of cinema's greatest performers because despite the fact that she phones this one in, she is still amazing. Aussie actor Brenton Thwaites landed the lead in the film and he gives a respectable performance too. The pacing is fluid and the temptation for flashy action sequences is resisted. At times the story does become a little too preachy for my liking and its religious undertones irked me... but that's kind of the point of the film and their message is clear. By no means a masterpiece but THE GIVER holds its own in a cinematic sea of generic teen blockbusters and it well worth the time.