In a seemingly perfect community, without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice, a young boy is chosen to learn from an elderly man about the true pain and pleasure of the "real" world.
Review by Louise Keller:
Like Pleasantville, The Giver makes effective use of black and white imagery in its depiction of a reality in which there is control, order and a mechanical life with no feeling. Emotions are compared to the wind - something felt and not seen, and as colour seeps in, a whole new world is opened up to a population whose time-tabled existence is filled with obedience and diligence. With consummate skill, director Phillip Noyce orchestrates all the complexities of the tale and its parallels with the state of the world, blending together its fantasy and thriller elements with a rich emotional heart. I was enthralled, stimulated and moved. It's a hero's story, a tale of redemption and one in which the heart holds the key.
By making the protagonist of Lois Lowry's award-winning children's book older, screenwriters Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide have opened up the possibilities for a hungry tween audience, casting the hunky Aussie star Brendan Thwaites in the role as the reluctant hero and clean-cut, good looking rebel. But the film is not only for tweens. The sign of a good film is one that transcends all ages, and this is the case here. Thwaites is instantly likeable and we can relate to the integrity in his eyes and his spirit. Jeff Bridges (also credited as one of the producers) is ideally cast as The Giver who imparts his knowledge and memories of the forgotten world to Jonas (Thwaites), his gruff persona matched by a gravelly voice that rivals that of Nick Nolte.
The scenes in which The Giver telepathically and physically passes his memories to Jonas are extremely moving - from the initial exhilarating snowboarding through an indescribably beautiful snowy wonderland to devastating moments of ugliness in war. Through Jonas' impressionable eyes we experience it all, including the revelation of his feelings for Fiona (Odeya Rush, lovely) and his connection with the ever-crying baby Gabriel, played by four cute and responsive babies.
The rest of the supporting cast is excellent, including Meryl Streep as the austere, controlling Chief Elder and in a nice touch, singer Taylor Swift appears in a memorable scene in which she introduces Jonas to music. Alexander Skarsgard and Katie Holmes are suitably creepy as Jonas' parents.
The stark production design is outstanding and I like the way Marco Beltrami's music score allows the narrative to fly on its musical wings. The integration of colour into Ross Emery's black and white cinematography is delicately done - with restraint. While there are echoes and plot resonances from other films and sources, as a film The Giver always feels fresh. Embracing courage, curiosity, determination and love are attributes of which we can never tire - especially in the hands of Phillip Noyce.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With its philosophical exploration of de-humanised human nature in a post apocalyptic world, or in the community's anodyne language, 'after The Ruin', this is science fiction as history lesson about a possible future. A future that, like 1984 for instance, delivers a soul-less calm and equality of sorts to the masses - at a massive price. So in that sense the themes are not original, with 'elders' acting as the authority who have ensured the erasure of emotions and memories will deliver a safe, homogenous (and in this case all white) community. In this case, a community living in smaller community compounds atop a mountain plateau surrounded by ... ah, well, that's the thing.
Phillip Noyce has cast the film to ensure it has gravitas and we are engaged: Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges are the representatives of the two ends of the philosophical divide, and if he had cast unknowns, I suspect the film would have been less compelling, not to take away from a fine screenplay.
Streep as the Chief Elder has the thankless task - in a powerful performance - of standing up for that manipulated calm (think The Truman Show by fellow Australian Peter Weir), while Bridges plays The Giver ... giver of memories, the community's sole repository of the past, with its beauty, pain and violence ... but also of that all conquering emotion that humanity simply cannot exist without: love.
Like I said, hardly original, but effective nonetheless in Noyce's hands, as he develops both story and character. Brenton Thwaites as Jonas the chosen one to be the next Receiver of all that past memory and Odeya Rush as Fiona, who penetrates Jonas' consciousness despite the daily injections that start everyone's day to suppress emotions.
Katie Holmes is gives a dense, sober characterisation as Jonas' mother and Alexander Skarsgård is suitably eerie as his father.
Most of Marcoi Beltrami's score is just right, with a couple of cues that I would revisit for a 'less is more' approach, and production design is a standout.
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GIVER, THE (M)
CAST: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgård, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush, Cameron Monaghan, Taylor Swift
PRODUCER: Jeff Bridges, Neil Koenigsberg, Nikki Silver
DIRECTOR: Phillip Noyce
SCRIPT: Michael Mitnick, Robert B. Weide (book by Lois Lowry)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ross Emery
EDITOR: Barry Alexander Brown
MUSIC: Marco Beltrami
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ed Verraux
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 11, 2014