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The Guilty – Quick Movie Review

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The 2021 Jake Gyllenhaall starrer Netflix film ‘The Guilty’ is a re-make of a 2018 Danish movie ‘Den Skyldige’. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, it’s about a cop who is demoted due to an ongoing trial against him and is made to take calls at the 911 dispatch call center.

Gyllenhaall is Jay Baylor, a cop with a major attitude problem, stuck taking calls from distressed Americans, who more often than not are just dumb privileged assholes. But when he gets a call from a woman called Emily (voice of Riley Keough), who seems to be kidnapped, Baylor is all ears and action. The first twenty-minutes of the movie is intriguing and tense, even though the cameras are constantly on Jaylor. The whole story unfolds at the call center, we never get to see the people who call and only a handful of other actors who play Jaylor’s co-workers on the floor get fleeting seconds of screen-space. He frantically tries to figure out Riley’s situation to rescue her and at the same time reach out to her toddlers who are left alone in her flat. Some viewers might experience second-hand anxiety due to all the suspense and helplessness the hero faces in the situation.

The film wholly falls on Gyllenhall’s shoulder, and he pulls of the role with ease for most parts, except for a little emotional breakdown scene, where he isn’t convincing enough to move the viewers. It’s actually the voice actors, who you cannot even see, you are able to stir up some emotions within you, because of the tragic events that unfold.

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The characterization came off as a bit loopy, because the makers try to pass of a problematic cop as some sort of a wronged hero. While Jaylor seems to be an earnest cop doing all he can to save a woman in distress, his actions are motivated by his own guilt for his past actions. There was one ridiculous dialogue in the film about how only “the broken save the broken”, a pathetic attempt to redeem the protagonist and pat him on the back. Jaylor has an infuriating ‘I know it all, I can fix everything’ aura and most people around him are exasperated by his behavior.

“The Guilty” has a very interesting twist towards the climax, which will make viewers think hard about the way we perceive/assume things about people. One really wishes that there could’ve been at least a few scenes outside of the call center, instead of the camera constantly zooming on Gyllenhaal’s face. It’s like he breaks under pressure towards the end and isn’t able to emote the personal trauma of his character.

It’s a 6/10 from me.

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