The Guilty was reviewed by the Toronto International Film Festival where it was shown for the first time. It will be released in limited cinemas on September 24, and on Netflix on October 1.
Set in one location and mostly one-man, director Antoine Fuqua’s The Guilty tells the story of a man working at a call center who races against time to try to rescue a woman kidnapped on a Los Angeles highway. This indie film in itself is a thriller at times, and offers an explosive and stunning performance by lead actor Jake Gyllenhaal. But as a remake of the 2019 Danish film Den skyldige that was submitted to the Oscars, it occupies a peculiar position as it copies the original, shot by shot, while attempting to rework the story to fit modern America without changing much of it.
Gyllenhaal plays Joe Baylor, a hot-tempered Los Angeles police officer who works his last shift early in the morning before being allowed to return to the streets. He is scheduled to appear in court later that day for reasons the film overshadowed, with raging wildfires in California complicating his last day in response to calls. He has little time or patience to answer calls that are not life threatening, and he even blames many callers for their misfortunes. But when he receives a mysterious call from a miserable woman trapped in a moving truck named Emily (Riley Keough), who pretends to talk to her young daughter to avoid making her ex-husband Henry (Peter Sarsgaard) find out she’s talking to the rescue, Baylor’s night takes many unexpected turns, And it begins to act recklessly in terms of standard procedures.
The film rarely departs from Gyllenhaal, who solidifies the Americanization of the story with a mixture of aggression and exhaustion. Baylor imagines himself to be a good protector, though neither the Los Angeles folks nor his co-workers who are troubled by his mood seem to agree. Similar to the Danish movie, his self-righteousness is half his motive for breaking and playing with the rules if it means bringing Emily home safely to her daughter. But the other half of his motivation is for the remake (which was written by True Detective creator Nick Pizzolato), and adds weight to the movie’s theme. Unlike the client in the original movie, here Baylor is the father of a young girl, and the impending lawsuit has put a huge strain on his marriage. He sees in Emily and Henry two versions of himself, a loving mother and a violent man deserving punishment for his transgressions, and so the situation instantly becomes personal.
In addition to this change of backstory, the remake also makes some notable aesthetic tweaks. The emergency call center in Fuqua’s version is bleaker, and the way he and cinematographer “Maz Makhani” capture Baylor’s character adds a sense of unease. The camera floats and vibrates with each new reveal and each time Baylor’s feelings intensify, and although the character is mostly photographed in close-up shots, long shots obscure him behind computer screens and other obstacles out of focus, creating a haze of light around him from sources Far (also the room is much larger than the original movie). This results in the film’s persistent lack of clarity, both about Baylor’s background story, and what lies ahead, and even its most intimate moments seem to be viewed from a distance.
But despite all these small, moment-to-moment adjustments, the overall changes seem not committed to their goals. Whereas the wildfires raging elsewhere in the city are a good, defining touch, and sometimes put obstacles in the way of callers with whom Baylor speaks on the phone, but the film also exits the communications office in only two instances, succinctly depicting the chase unfolding amid the fiery chaos. . These scenes of smoke and ash fade over Baylor’s close-up shots, and whether they are intended to depict the reality of events on the ground or simply Baylor’s perception of them, they end up becoming so fleeting and low-key that they are almost meaningless. For a movie that focuses on a single character and temperament for nearly 100% of its duration, these rare moments away from it don’t add much to its story. Filming these fires gives a sense of intensity but it’s just an impression, as we don’t see other characters around the fire, only hints about people, vehicles and ideas, which contrasts with Baylor’s close-up shots in a cold cramped environment, but these shots were not used to depict what the raging fire represents for him to Baylor, except for it being a plot-driven mechanism. Before long the film discards what could have been an interesting visual idea.
Another idea that one feels is half committed is what the movie wants to say about the work of the police. Similar to the original story, the film uses the theme of the systematic abuse of power as a general backdrop, between Baylor’s past actions (which the film reveals in very minute moments) and his cruelty toward his many callers. But in both the films, the original and this remake, this premise is just an excuse to focus on a strong performance, which in this case is Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Gyllenhaal immersing himself in a desperate rage, which in turn forces Baylor to reflect on what he did as more details about Emily come to light. The film is not a story about systemic corruption or the entities protecting uniformed violent offenders, although that is part of the film’s setting. Nor does it need to be those themes, it’s just a slice of the bigger picture and not a story about the bigger picture per se, but Fuqua and Pizzolato try to add commentary about these on top of the current story, rather than making them an integral part of the plot or characters.
Movie The Guilty He proved to be captivating at times, thanks to Jake Gyllenhaal’s amazing performance.
Similar to the original movie, The Guilty is restricted in terms of its subject matter. His intense focus on one character leaves little room for purposely exploration of the wider world around him. The use of this structure to shed light on the work of the American police, without modifying the plot or filming the film in one location, causes what the film is trying to say about social issues seems incomplete and comes in the form of separate sentences of dialogue from secondary characters that do not affect the story itself. and audio clips from news releases intended to spark recent debates about police behavior and injustice. And those things aren’t helpful in a one-room thriller, as if he thinks viewers might miss the fact that Baylor is a cop who has anger issues after the tenth time he loses his temper on his co-workers.
Despite the film’s clumsy attempts to comment on social problems, in a story where the commentary was already evident, The Guilty proved captivating at times, thanks to Jake Gyllenhaal’s brilliant performance, and the way it expresses complex and conflicting emotions. Those who enjoyed the original movie probably won’t find sides to enjoy more here, but both versions are well worth a watch thanks to the two lead characters’ outstanding performances.
– Translated by Dima Muhanna
Jake Gyllenhaal stars as an emergency communications agent in The Guilty, a remake of the Danish film by director Antoine Fuqua that attempts to recreate the one-man story in one location in modern America without changing too much of it. His efforts to comment on social issues have mostly failed to achieve their goal, but the film’s dramatic moments and Gyllenhaal’s dramatic performance largely make up for it.