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THE GIFT ($30) is a highly entertaining character driven supernatural thriller that benefits greatly from some high caliber talent both behind and in front of the camera. Sure, there are some predictable moments in Billy Bob Thornton’s screenplay; however, director Sam Raimi manages to overcome them with his tight, suspenseful pacing and interesting visuals. Additionally, the film’s terrific cast is able to latch onto the well-drawn characters making one forget the occasional weakness in the screenplay.

The plot of THE GIFT focuses on a widowed backwater woman named Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett), who has the gift of second sight, which she uses to eek out a meager living to support her children. Aside from being nearly destitute, Annie has a serious problem with Donnie Barksdale (Keanu Reeves), the abusive husband of one of her clients. It seems that Donnie has been threatening Annie and her children to get the psychic to stop giving advice to his wife Valerie (Hilary Swank). Annie’s life is further complicated when she is asked to use her gift to help locate Jessica King (Katie Holmes), a young woman from a prominent family who has gone missing. Her visions eventually lead her to the Jessica, but not before they uproot some dark, buried secrets that could turn deadly for Annie. THE GIFT features first rate supporting performances from Giovanni Ribisi, Greg Kinnear, Michael Jeter, Gary Cole and Rosemary Harris.

Paramount Home Entertainment has made THE GIFT available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. The image on the DVD is quite good; appearing crisp and very well detailed most of the time, although a number of the film’s more suspenseful moments appear somewhat shadowy and less defined, which allows the audience wonder about what is lurking in the dark. Colors tend to be strongly saturated, with the flesh tones retaining a natural appearance. None of the stronger hues display any signs of chroma noise or smearing. Blacks are perfectly inky and the picture has pretty smooth contrast. Shadow detail can be good, or somewhat reserved- depending on the filmmakers’ intentions. The film element is clean and free from noticeable blemishes or obtrusive grain. Clean dual layer authoring keeps digital compression artifacts out of sight.

Although on the surface, THE GIFT would appear to be a dialogue driven film, the supernatural and suspense elements of the story allow the sound designers to take full advantage of the discrete nature of the Dolby Digital 5.1 channel format. At times, THE GIFT is aggressively mixed with sound effects jumping out at the audience to punctuate key sequences. Of course, most of the time the sound mix is more subdued, which heightens the shock value when the track springs to life. Dialogue reproduction is excellent; with the voices being well recorded and maintaining complete intelligibility. English and French Dolby Surround soundtracks are also encoded onto the DVD, in addition to English subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as several extras. The Gift: A Look Inside runs approximately ten minutes and offers "fluffy" interviews with key cast and crewmembers. Also included on the DVD is a music video for the song Furnace Room Lullaby performed by Neko Case and Her Boyfriends. A theatrical trailer closes out the DVD’s extras.

THE GIFT is a solid supernatural thriller that benefits from solid performances from a great cast. Paramount has produced another great looking and sounding DVD, so if you are interested in THE GIFT, you can’t go wrong by picking up a copy.


 The Gift


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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