Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writer: Nic Pizzolatto
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ethan Hawke, Riley Keough, Christina Vidal Mitchell, Eli Goree, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Peter Sarsgaard
The Guilty is a remake of the Danish film of the same name from 2018. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Joe Baylor, a police officer who has been transferred to work at a 911 call centre while awaiting trail about an incident that happened on shift. He receives a call from Emily (Riley Keough), a distressed woman who has been kidnapped by her ex-partner. He must piece together the information to make sure that she is saved before it’s too late.
Gyllenhaal gives an absolutely stunning performance as Joe. The entire film is set in the call centre, with the camera on him for almost every second and he brings the emotional weight to the film. It would be so easy for a film set in one place, with the action happening over the phone, to fall flat. Instead, Gyllenhaal makes this a tense and gripping thriller from the opening moment to when the credits roll.
As the film is completely focused on one person, you live through it with him, wanting to save Emily while at the same time living with the helplessness that Joe feels. He’s doing everything in his power to save Emily, but there’s only so much he can do behind a desk. The city is focused on the wildfires that are raging in the Hollywood Hills and there isn’t enough manpower to complete a full investigation. Joe is stuck listening to the struggles over the phone and you feel the same pain he feels, knowing there’s nothing he can do.
This is one hell of a tense film. It starts of slow to ease you in and then when Emily calls through you start to get a sense that this is a bad situation and slowly the tension ramps up until you’ve on the edge of your seat, living in anticipation while also wanting Joe to get out of his and go save her. But he can’t. He’s stuck trying to get others to help, but there isn’t enough information to pinpoint Emily’s location.
As to be expected with a film that is essentially one character having phone calls, describing what is happening, the film does feel a little stretched out in places. It barely reaches ninety minutes and does start to slow down a little in the middle. There is a twist towards the end that ramps everything back up and you won’t see it coming. Thankfully the film is on Netflix, so you can pause it to actually let everything sink in.
The Guilty is one of the most absorbing thrillers of recent years. It grabs your attention and doesn’t let go. Gyllenhaal gives a fantastic performance that carries the whole film. While there are moments where it feels like it’s being padded out, such as a couple of additional phone calls interrupting the main plot (one which features a cameo from the fantastic Bill Burr), it’s still a great film. When it works it’s on fire, and when it slows down, it’s just a rest before things start up again. If you have a Netflix account, don’t let this one slip through into the endless watch list.