About two years ago there was news of a female victim of domestic violence calling 911 under the guise of ordering pizza. The officer responded quickly, then followed the “acting” of the reporter, who was finally rescued. This means that the recipient of an emergency call is required to be able to think fast, be tactical, and be mentally stable. Imagine if in that situation, he suddenly became confused and anxious.
The Guilty, as a remake of the Danish film of the same title released in 2018, has such a scenario. The protagonist, Joe Baylor (Jake Gyllenhaal), is a member of the LAPD who is on a night shift at an emergency call center. He seemed calm, tended to care less about incoming reports. Through several calls he has received, including from Sergeant Bill Miller (voiced by Ethan Hawke), we learn that Joe is involved in a case (details will only be revealed in the final round), for which the trial will take place tomorrow. Top Movie Site
The wait makes Joe haunted by anxiety. The inhaler never leaves his hand, and he has difficulty controlling his emotions, especially when a call comes from Emily (Riley Keough), who claims to be kidnapped by her ex-husband. Joe struggles to find Emily’s whereabouts, but the process is not easy. In addition to technical problems, psychological instability also affects.
The Guilty has the potential to explore issues regarding the performance of irresponsible officers while on duty. Not only related to the summons, also the case that Joe awaits trial. We see Joe make a number of decisions that have negative consequences, and there are incredibly dark and shocking situations in the plot (which we can only hear on the phone). Best Movie
But, in a “very Hollywood” way, Nic Pizzolatto’s script disarms the above darkness (ironically, because it was made by the author of True Detective who highlights the darkest side of humans), to turn it into a “meaningful” story with a hopeful conclusion, about a “broken people helping broken people” and penance. I don’t hate happy endings. Even more like it than the stifling ending. But in this case, the choice actually removes the weight of the narrative.
As a thriller, the existence of Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen, The Equalizer) is a guarantee. Although the majority is set behind a chair, where the audience only hears descriptions of events rather than seeing them directly, Fuqua is still able to deliver an explosive thriller without an explosion, thanks to its fast tempo, screams, and satisfying twists. It’s not (just) surprising, but the twist also explains some of the details that have emerged. There are “breadcrumbs” scattered throughout the duration.
When I write “shouts”, of course I’m referring to the acting of Jake Gyllenhaal, who unleashes his energy at every turn. Not wrong. After all, like the rest of the film, the method aligns with the film’s goal, which is to turn European psychological thrillers into Hollywood-style spectacles that are more welcoming to a wider audience. There is one scene, when Joe asks Emily to calm down while taking a deep breath. Simultaneously, Joe caught his breath. Whether consciously or not, Joe is also helping himself. Gyllenhaal’s acting is more subtle in that part, and for me, that’s the best moment.
The Guilty is indeed solid, both in the directing and acting departments, regarding its contribution to building intensity. But looking at the original film, as well as the storytelling potential that can be achieved, this film is like a student who can get an A if he studies hard, but chooses an easier path, relaxes, and finally gets a B. It’s sufficient, but could be much better. Movie Review