Netflix and Antoine Fuqua adapt the 2018 Danish crime thriller The Guilty, featuring Jake Gyllenhaal in the main role. It’s isolated feeling is both positive and negative although it's hard to discern which way it leans the most, but overall you get a feeling of pointlessness. Some of the performances, whether physically present or not, elevate it above this in specific scenes.
Written by Alex Gilston
The Guilty is set in a 911 dispatch call centre. After a series of calls from the same person Joe (Gyllenhaal) tries everything he can to save them from grave danger. As he talks to the caller more he starts to learn the whole truth of the situation. The Guilty has a fairly engaging story, with the mystery being trickled through ever so slightly through the 90 minute run time. Where it falters is who we are meant to be rooting for. Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, as we find out, is a police officer on desk duty for an incident which occurred previously to the film's beginning, and with him being the “protagonist” of the film it's hard to root for him. The film tries to juggle the main story and mystery alongside the story of Joe, but it ends up seeming as if Fuqua is spinning too many plates.
It’s hard to imagine the adapted version of The Guilty working with any other actor than Jake Gyllenhaal, every moment that lands, lands because of him. When your attention starts to wane Gyllenhaal brings you right back in. Considering he is one of the only actors we see on screen, it's quite the performative achievement. Riley Keough provides one of the other main performances of The Guilty, entirely as the voice at the other end of a phone. As with everything, Keough brings her A game and provides a compelling pillar for Gyllenhaal to lean on.
Within the context of the story it feels poignant that the adaptation is in an American setting. Joe’s storyline does hint towards the abuse of power that the police in America carry out. Where it could have been really well utilised its demoted to a sub storyline and feels massively underused.
After wanting to really like The Guilty it felt incredibly underwhelming, with the only bright spots coming from the stellar performances of Gyllenhaal and Keough. In its attempt to say a lot it gets lost and ends up not saying anything at all, with the conclusion having little to no impact. But seeing as this film was made during the pandemic it can’t be understated that is a wonderful achievement.