26 September 2023

The Guilty

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

Director: Antoine Fuqua, Netflix.

If you are looking for an uncharacteristic thriller that relies more on genuine suspense instead of violent action, then this film will not disappoint.

The Guilty, which largely takes place inside a 911 Call Centre, is distinctive because Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain, Donnie Darko, Nightcrawler) is the only main character to be seen on screen. The plot unfolds through a series of phone calls.

Gyllenhaal plays Joe Baylor, a demoted LAPD officer, who finds himself manning a 911 line. He’s constrained to his desk, with little aid from other officers, and only given limited information. The anticipation builds behind the console as Joe is confined to just a couple of rooms. Jake is at his absolute best!

You can see that Baylor has lots of anger, pain and sadness and we feel obligated to go through every emotion with him. He’s short-tempered with colleagues and you can see he can’t wait to get back out to the streets. A troubled family dispute becomes obvious as he makes some personal calls about his crumbling marriage and dispute over a child. A looming hearing is causing some angst.

Distraction from his personal misgivings comes after he takes a call from a sobbing woman, who he finds out, was forced into a van against her will. A man is shouting threats in the background. The woman has been kidnapped, is distraught and needs help, but many of the on-duty emergency responders are busy with the California wildfires.

Joe feels stressed, but uplifted by being given an opportunity to be a cop again and to help someone in need. He makes some calls to different branches of law enforcement for assistance, researches the case, and tries to help the woman from behind his desk.

This is director Fuqua’s (Training Day, Infinite, Southpaw) unexpected buddy piece to his past police stories. It’s a cop-on-the-edge thriller where the cop is an unsettled detective-turned-911-dispatcher who gets the job done.

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