How and why are all the better book to film adaptations so easily overlooked? Seriously: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Maze Runner, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and now The Giver. Perhaps it’s just because everyone’s too busy flocking to the next showing of a Jennifer Lawrence movie. In any case, here we have The Giver, and boy is it something.
I’d like to comment first on the direction. It is executed with precision. The film uses a filtering technique that I’ve only seen guys like Zack Snyder or David Fincher pull-off. However, Phillip Noyce (the director) chooses his shots wisely and his use of the camera is very balanced. One of the main reasons I disliked The Hunger Games was because of its constant use of the overused, unartistic, annoying shaky-cam! It’s the equivalent of dubstep to music; they took the original art (the art of cinematography), made it have no focus, bounced it all over the place, and decided to use it in their (professional) production. If you want to have your audience gain something from a shot, hold the dang camera straight. Besides that, this movie features: Brenton Thwaites, Meryl Streep, and Jeff Bridges carrying the largest amount of screen time. To me, this is Brenton’s best performance yet. He was a great casting choice here as his character was exactly the type of actor Brenton is, playing a regular young man who has to make very difficult choices as he is thrust into scenarios he never desired. Bridges is just absolutely outstanding! He portrays many emotions: depressed, happy, longing, quizzical, quirky, searching, desperate, and mysterious all in the runtime of an hour and a half (thank God this man has an Oscar). As for Meryl, well, she is okay. I haven’t seen many of her movies, but what she displayed here was decent. Other highlights include: the imaginative set and prop design, the story (which I’ll explain in a moment) and the message. The story itself is set in the future, and has an overarching plot of questioning the government (yes that plot is very old by now), as well as the subplot of having an irreversible destiny assigned to you. Clever yes, but sadly they only begin to use that at around the half hour mark. Now believe me, this story will take you on a ride whether you like it or not. It redefines life and valiantly attempts to tackle many controversial topics. The ending is a little ambiguous, around the last 10 minutes or so. The climax is predictable, yet still suspenseful, mostly because as you grow with the characters (which does take way too long) and the decisions they hold in their hands, you feel the tension and what is at risk. The story has a pretty dark twist which is (again) predictable, yet the way they show it allows the viewer to remain invested. This is very impressive especially because this came out in the practical Year of Book to Film Adaptations.
Altogether, this was an excellent movie. Its story does feel old, but it uses different tricks and changes it up a bit so it can feel slightly different. Most of the actors contribute their talents which leads to some pretty realistic character interactions. It’s pacing is done well, likewise as the direction, and editing. The opening half hour is a bit dull and slow, but as a standalone movie, it succeeds. Definitely a film I would recommend. This gets Guy’s Guru Grade of an A-.