I thought I was going to skip seeing a movie this week because the only thing I could find in the theaters was Venom: Let There Be Carnage. The first Venom didn’t rate very high on my list (C+) and the second one looked a lot worse. Bummed, I pulled up Netflix and was surprised to see the new Jake Gyllenhaal movie The Guilty, had been released.
The synopsis of The Guilty from IMDB (Internet Movie Database) is a demoted police officer assigned to a call dispatch desk is conflicted when he receives an emergency phone call from a kidnapped woman.
This film is actually a remake of the well-received Danish movie: Den Skylidge. So, it doesn’t surprise me that Hollywood would put its own spin on it.
The Guilty is not your typical crime thriller, because it doesn’t have action scenes, it doesn’t change locations, and we don’t even see most of the cast’s faces. Instead, it focuses on telling the stories through the phone calls that Joe, played by Gyllenhaal, interacts with. Now having just gotten done writing, crafting, producing my own audio drama, Dagon, this film really impressed me with its acoustic magic. This type of film could have easily had fallen apart because it doesn’t rely so much on visuals. However, Nic Pizzolatto, the screenwriter, puts together a very engaging, concise, and emotional story that held my attention as well as got me invested in the characters. Granted he stuck pretty close to Den Skylidge so he didn’t have to reinvent the wheel, but kudos to him for using what worked in the past.
As good as the story is, the movie could have really fallen flat if the main actor put in a subpar performance, because the visuals we have is how Joe reacts to a given phone call. Joe has to be somebody we can relate to and allow us to feel what they are experiencing. Gyllenhaal pulls his weight and makes Joe feel like a friend or co-worker we all have worked with before. He is also joined by a cast of several well-known actors and actresses. I should say he is joined by their voices. Again, knowing how hard it is to tell an audio story in a visual media, the performances had to be believable and spot on. Luckily for the movie they were.
Even though Pizzolatto writes a good script, I think the movie is good first view, but on knowing the details of the plot makes additional viewing not as enjoyable, which is why I downgraded its’ score.
Overall, I would give this movie a B (A Good Movie). Watching as many films as I do during the year, I have developed a soft spot for films that do stuff outside the box. The Guilty is not your typical crime thriller. There are no action scenes, the audience doesn’t see half of the casts faces, and we are rooted in one location for the entirety of the movie. What we do get is a tense screenplay by Nic Pizzolatto, which invites the audience to experience a criminal situation through the conversations of a 911 operator. Because the majority of the film is about looking at how our main character Joe played by Jake Gyllenhaal responds to the calls, it could really sink if the actor can’t emote well enough. Luckily though Gyllenhaal gives us a good performance as a demoted cop turned 911 operator with a past. Overall, I like the pace, suspense, tension, and the twists and turns of the story. This movie is not for everybody, especially those who want action in their crime thriller. However, if you are looking for a movie that has a good story and tells it in an unorthodox way, give this one a watch.
The Guilty is rated R for language throughout. The film was directed by Antoine Fuqua. Nic Pizzaolatto shares writing credits with Gustav Moller and Emil Nygaard Albertsen who both were the original writers of Den Skylidge which The Guilty is based on. The Guilty stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Riley Keough and Peter Sarsgaard.