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Movie review: The Giver

Updated on September 19, 2014

It's understandable how audiences can be getting a little frustrated by the two stream output currently from Hollywood; if you're not into superheroes or teens struggling in a dystopian future, you're in trouble.

Unfortunately there looks like o no sign of change on the horizon, with this trend likely to continue for the foreseeable dystopian future. However, although this effort clearly falls into the latter category, it at least attempts to do so in an original way.

It's 2048 and society has changed beyond all recognition. Over the years, it has become the definition of homogeneity, with a society completely devoid of any emotions. This means there's no hate, which means there's no war, but also no love.

As they grow, the young are monitored so as to see which profession they can be assigned when they graduate. Friends Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), Fiona (Odeya Rush) and Asher (Cameron Monaghan) are, as you would expect, excited as to what waits for them in all.

As graduation arrives, the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) announces who gets what. Everyone but Jonas that is. Oddly, the Chief Elder skips his number and leaves him standing on his own right at the end. Explaining that it was no mistake, she informs Jonas, in front of family and friends, that he has been given a rather special task, that of the Giver of Memories.

He is to report to the Receiver of Memories (Jeff Bridges), who will train him on his duties. As soon as they meet, in his abode at the edge of their world, Jonas soon realises that the Receiver is like no other person he's ever met. He is a man that knows many things, most importantly, history; their history has a race going way back in time.

The receiver, sensing something special about Jonas, doesn't hold back, as he believes that he could be the one who has the ability to change all their lives for the better, forever. But things get bumpy when the Elder Chief begins to think that as far as teaching Jonas is concerned, the Receiver is going beyond his remit and heading into very dangerous territory indeed.

Hollywood has dug a little deeper into the world of Young Adult fiction for their latest adaptation, as this one, written by Lois Lowry, was published in 1993, and is the first chapter in her Quartet series. It's just a shame that it hadn't made it to the screens earlier, as more recent fair, such as The Hunger Games and Divergent, haven't only stolen its thunder, but also some of its plot points. It may have been fresh in '93, but watching yet another ceremony where jobs get assigned, feels old hat now.

And the even the future, which, you know, is ahead of us and yet to be seen, again feels eerily familiar. A dystopian vision littered with mild peril. Talk about déjà vu.

But despite its familiarity, veteran director Phillip Noyce (who directed probably one of the finest thrillers on a boat with 1989's Dead Calm) attempts to develop the film's narrative cinematically, primarily playing with black and white and colour throughout. If nothing else, it looks both elegant and impressive from beginning to end.

He also does well casting a good mix of new faces and old. Certainly Bridges and Streep give it a gravitas that can't be ignored. The youngster give a good account of themselves too, particularly Thwaites who imbues his character with a kind of George Bailey innocence; not bad for someone who has come from a few years working on the Australian soap Home & Away.

Despite its themes and plots being far from original, Noyce does more than enough to give this a nod above the rest of its kind out there. So if you must insist on seeing future teens in mild peril, this film will give you exactly that.

3 booms


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