'The Guilty' Review
Taking place in one room, 'The Guilty,' Denmark's official submission for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Awards, is more compelling than it should be.
Release Date: October 19, 2018
MPAA Rating: R
In The Guilty, a police officer assigned alarm dispatch duty enters a race against time when he answers an emergency call from a kidnapped woman.
Director: Gustav Möller
Screenwriter(s): Gustav Möller, Emil Nygaard Albertson
Producer(s): Lina Flint
Cast: Jakob Cedergren (Asger Holm), Jessica Dinnage (Iben), Omar Shargawi (Rashid), Johan Olsen (Michael), Katinka Evers-Jahnsen (Mathilde), Jacob Lohmann (Bo)
Editor: Carla Luffe
Cinematographer: Jasper Spanning
Production Designer: Gustav Pontoppidan
Casting Director(s): Anja Philip
Music Score: Carl Coleman, Caspar Hesselager
The Guilty is about a Danish police officer named Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren from “Those Who Kill“) who has been assigned dispatch duty while an investigation into his job conduct can be completed. One evening, he gets an emergency call from a woman named Iben (Jessica Dinnage from “The Rain“) who claims that she has been abducted by her ex-husband, Michael (Johan Olsen from “Store danske videnskabsfolk”). Asger uses all of his wits and resources to try and save the woman, but as he works the case, he slowly peels back the layers and discovers that Iben’s situation is more complicated than it initially seemed.
If that sounds a bit like the plot of the 2013 Halle Berry thriller The Call, that’s because essentially, it is. However, Writer and Director Gustav Möller (“Follow the Money“) and Cowriter Emil Nygaard Albertson (“Joe Tech”) take a less action-oriented, more minimalistic approach. Unlike The Call, The Guilty doesn’t leave the confines of the dispatch center, so it’s a bit more believable…and a whole lot more suspenseful. Oh, and a lot less by-the-numbers and predictable.
The only aspect that is shared between The Guilty and The Call is the main concept of the film. A more apt comparison for The Guilty would be to a movie like Locke, in which Tom Hardy anchors the whole film by talking on a phone to several different off-screen characters. The economical approach that The Guilty takes works beautifully, providing the viewer with bits and pieces of information in real time as Asger himself receives them, so the audience kind of gets to solve the mystery along with him.
But there’s another layer to The Guilty. As Asger learns more about Iben’s kidnapping, the audience learns more about Asger, and while it takes some putting together, he discovers that he and Iben have more in common than just being on opposite ends of a police emergency call. And that’s where The Guilty becomes a special movie; it’s so simple and effortlessly put together, yet so packed with emotion, tension, and even a few “whoa, what?” moments.
The Guilty is Denmark’s official submission into the Best Foreign Language Film category of this year’s Academy Awards. And while not many of the submissions have made their way over to America yet, I already have a personal favorite in The Guilty.
Because he is really the only main character to appear on screen (and, in a way, the only main character in the film), Jakob Cedergren has a field day with The Guilty. It’s not much hyperbole to say that he single-handedly carries the film. As an actor, the big challenge is playing off of characters that aren’t actually in the room with him or within his sightline, but Cedergren manages to coax out both sides of the story by using just his own performance and the bit of voiceover that he hears coming through the phone. Sure, the offscreen characters serve up the pitches, but Jakob Cedergren gets to knock them out of the park. And he makes a movie that essentially takes place in a single location more compelling than it has any right to be.