- Hamish Hart
The Guilty (2021) Review
ANGUISH is the overarching theme throughout Fuqua's remake of the critically-acclaimed Danish thriller of the same name, and despite not being up to speed in terms of quality when compared to its international counterpart, The Guilty stands on its own as a gripping tale of grief and redemption.
Demoted police officer Joe Baylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) receives an emergency call from a kidnapped woman after being assigned to a call dispatch centre. Conflicted and distrustful, Baylor takes matters into his own hands and does all he can to comfort and protect this stranger before any harm can come to a mother who reminds Baylor all too much of his own fractured life.
Gyllenhaal holds together the fabric of an otherwise flimsy, mundane situation, delivering an exceptionally-good performance. His portrayal of a distraught, mentally-drained police officer is only enhanced by the manner of storytelling Fuqua chooses as the entire film takes place within a dispatch centre. While this technique is far from new, being utilised in a plethora of successful and unsuccessful films, The Guilty makes full use of its enclosed surroundings, relying on Gyllenhaal's incredible facials, subtle movements and minor interactions with co-workers to present his exasperation as the stress of the case increases. This may turn some away due to the repeated scenery, but the dispatch centre structure created an uncomfortable sense of realism, allowing audiences to imagine for themselves the horrifying circumstances off-screen characters such as the kidnapped Emily (Riley Keough) and her distressed daughter Abby (Christiana Montoya) are going through based on the anxiety in their voices.
Simplicity is the best way to describe The Guilty, but there in lies one of the biggest faults of the film; its over-reliance on a secluded location. While its confined locale was due to Covid-19 isolation, taking a mere 11 days to shoot, the quality of the movie took a minor hit as a result. Baylor's past is continually brought up, referring to his recent demotion and divorce, creating an immediate connection and understanding for his actions moving forward. However, as an audience, we never truly learn the exact circumstances which led to where he is today; a double-edged sword of a situation as the build-up was expertly translated through subtle nods to his ex-wife and daughter, but the ending explicitly states "broken people save broken people." The line by itself is a tremendous one out of context, but when put alongside a conflicting ending where we're led to believe his actions never mattered as we never see what happened, it puts a damper on what could've been a near-perfect ending.
Repetitious surroundings and gradual pacing may turn some away, but if you're searching for a gripping thriller with expert acting from one of Hollywood's best working today, Netflix's remake of this obscure classic will satisfy your craving for something more on the "subtle" side despite the ending doing its best to conflict your feelings with its pessimistic conclusion.