Film: "The Giver"; Cast: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush, Cameron Monaghan, Taylor Swift and Emma Tremblay;
Director: Philip Noyce; Rating: **1/2
"From the ashes of the ruins communities were built" - states the first frame of the film which then proceeds to depict the state of affairs in a Utopian society, where there is no pain, no crime or unhappiness. Here, laws were laid for "equality" by erasing memories of the past.
A concept film, based on Lois Lowry's book of the same name, Philip Noyce's "The Giver" reminds you of Neil Burger's "Divergent" which was released last April. But unlike "Divergent", this one is a simpler, one-dimensional story of revolt against the system.
The story, narrated through young Jonas' (Brenton Thwaites) point of view touches issues about; identity, self-realization and defying traditions.
He along with his friends the fun-loving Asher (Cameron Monaghan), and kind-hearted Fiona (Odeya Rush) are about to graduate to the next level in their community, and they are all anxious about their next assignment, which would be handed down to them by the community Elder (Meryl Streep).
Unlike the rest of the group, Jonas, due to his "intelligence, strength and capabilities to handle sorrow", is chosen for a mysterious and isolated posting of 'The Receiver' - a post designated to be the repository of memories, since the founders recognized that there might be some circumstances when mistakes could be prevented by reminders of past failures.
Jonas is to be trained by the current receiver (Jeff Bridges) who is aging. Since he would be transferring the memory to Jonas, he calls himself, 'The Giver'.
The training consists of transferring memories of a past, before the imposition of 'Sameness' - that the others in the community can't even imagine - in which there was not only war, hunger, and disease, but also colour, weather, and strong emotions.
It is during these interactions with the 'Giver' that Jonas comes to understand, and resent, the choices that had to be made to create his world, and the terrible secrets behind its perfection. Together, he and the 'Giver' concoct a plan to change the way his world works, but before they can carry it out, Jonas is forced to make a decision that may destroy them all.
The drawback of this film is its title. It is misleading. The 'Giver' is the adviser, who guides the hero and shows him that the world is a more complex place than he believes. But the film is the journey of the 'Receiver'.
Jeff Bridges, though he appears in the title role, is not the hero. He is effective. He does not seem to be the aging character as described in the book, but he portrays the worn-out and mystical 'Giver' with apt precision.
The disconnect with the film becomes more prominent as one fails to empathize with Jonas. Brenton Thwaites as young Jonas is expressionless. He is supposed to be stunned and traumatized to be motivated, but instead all he delivers is a sluggish awestruck look and demeanor.
Meryl Streep in human and holographic appearances, is fake and superficial. And the rest of the cast are mere characters to drag the story forward.
The production value of the film is good. Though the look and feel of the film seems oft seen, production designer Ed Verreaux's unique, plateaued table-top location with its snow-flaked design conveys easy-going exterior with sinister threat. It is the highlight of the film.
Cinematically, black and white frames interspersed with a few colour frames gives the film a characteristic charm. Also, the visuals across the arid land as well as the snow-clad mountainous terrain are attractive.
While the scriptwriters Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide, have tried to be loyal to the book, its translation into the visual medium by director Philip Noyce is disappointing.
The last act of the film hinges on absurdity. The badly edited sequence, which includes generic and vague shots of war and agitation which suddenly pop-up combined with past and present scenes, creates confusion.