Based on a novel by Lois Lowry The Giver sees three young friends, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), Fiona (Odeya Rush) and Asher (Cameron Monaghan) graduate from their studies in a futuristic colony run by a Chief Elder (Meryl Streep). On the eve of their graduation the three friends decide on a pact that will see them become lifelong friends and then the next day Asher finds himself becoming a pod pilot and Fiona a nurturer –a role that sees her looking after small babies.
But the future is less clear for young Jonas who finds himself being named as the next Receiver, a task he knows very little about. Soon he finds himself under the guidance of The Giver (Jeff Bridges), a man who holds onto all the memories from before The Fall, no matter how painful they are.
As The Giver begins to educate Jonas on the ways of the world before The Fall Jonas begins to realise that there is a better way to live his life and decides to rebel against the regime something that worries his Father (Alexander Skarsgard) and Mother (Katie Holmes) as they seen previously what can happen when a Receiver goes rogue.
The Giver always seemed to be facing an uphill battle to try and impress film fans. I realised that from the moment I was sitting in a cinema and saw the trailer for the film and found myself thinking ‘wow the trailer for Divergent 2 is out already… but hang on where is Shailene Woodley?’ How can any film hope to make an audience for itself when it seems to be telling the same story as the film that had already received criticism for being close to The Hunger Games. The similarities between the films got even closer when I sat down to watch The Giver and realised that even the opening prologue seemed to be describing Divergent as it rambled on about a dystopian society led by elders and kids graduating their studies and then being selected to do various careers based on their personalities etc.
You would think that despite its similarities to other films The Giver would be in pretty good hands with director Philip Noyce at the helm, after all this is the man that has been responsible for films such as Salt, Rabbit Proof Fence and Patriot Games in the past. But here even Noyce struggles with a film that seems to want to tap into the Harry Potter style of filmmaking, with character set-up and a storyline building up to a dramatic action packed third act. It’s not Noyce’s fault though it is clearly the material that he has been given to work with.
What will annoy you most about The Giver is the fact that the film’s story makes no sense at all. If The Elder is so determined to keep the people from knowing about the past then why give the memories to someone new at all, wouldn’t it just be best for the memories to die with The Giver? Then there is also the fact that the screenplay provides very little suspense at all. The ‘memory wiped’ characters been making the characters likable to the audience extremely hard indeed while the dramatic chase at the end never ever becomes anywhere dramatic or suspenseful at all. When it comes to that territory both Divergent and The Hunger Games has The Giver well and truly covered. You would think that the man responsible for Salt should have been able to inject a little more action into the film… but alas no.
The poor script also doesn’t allow for anybody to put in any brilliant acting performances. Jeff Bridges is passable for the frustrated Giver while Brenton Thwaites seems to just breeze through his roles. The one-dimensional characters that litter the film though mean though that the acting talents of the likes of Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgard and Katie Holmes are completely wasted though, a shame when you consider the talent at hand there.
Thankfully The Giver was nowhere near as bad as The Host – it’s watchable, but only just. It is the kind of film though that will be ripped to shreds by any young budding screenwriter out there as it’s implausible plot just makes less and less sense as the film plods along. It is little wonder that some countries hid the film away from a majority of reviewers because it is a film that does very little for its audience or cast and is likely to be a film that you forget the instant the credits have rolled.
Director: Phillip Noyce
Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgard
Running Time: 97 minutes
Release Date: 19th September, 2014