The trailer of The Guilty released on YouTube promised it to be a terse, exciting thriller that would truly shake the audience but the movie doesn’t create the same impact. Despite a shocking plot twist, exciting moments and a strong climax, The Guilty never breaks ground as a thriller. However, lead by Jake Gyllenhall’s expertise as an actor stays with you for a different theme. As told by Jake on several platforms, the film was shot in 11 days during the Pandemic.
The movie begins with a Biblical quote where Jesus proclaims, “The truth will set you free: “The Guilty” is a thriller film based on the intricacies of human follies. Through the film, Jake Gyllenhall and Director Antoine Fuqua reunite after “Southpaw” in 2015. The thriller shot in real-time is a remake of the 2018 Danish thriller film Den Skyldige.
The duration of 1 hour 31 minutes follow the story of an embittered 911 dispatcher Joe played by Gyllenhall, as he breaks all rules to help a distraught woman who calls him one fateful night. It is shot in the backdrop of wildfire that shook California in 2020 increasing the stakes.
5 minutes into the film, one already knows the character of Joe Baylor, as he has been introduced in n number of past thrillers. There are common elements: Medical pills, a failed marriage, breathing issues, and arbitrary arrogance. These too are magnified here risking the narrative to be melodramatic in places.
Going by the rules, Joe is a Los Angeles cop who is forced to leave the field and contribute as a 911 communication employee. He is struggling with a past incident that happened months ago for which he has a court hearing the next day. In the early minutes of the film, little is established except Joe’s aggression. When a person calls him regarding a drug overdose, he threatens to send the police to his house, judges the people who call him for help, and is extremely rude to his colleagues. He calls his ex-wife in the middle of the night and keeps her on the phone without her will, the audience feels are we to like this man?
However, there is a reason for this intense arbitrariness. Out of his investigative instincts, he gets fixated on a call from a woman named Emily Norton who says that she is abducted. Believing he is a failed dad, it becomes sort of a life goal for Joe to save the woman and bring her back to her children. Joe holds his breathing pump like a stress buster, remains awake at night is possessed by one emotion: guilt. In a darkly comic scene, Joe tries to teach Emily to breathe in order to calm her down, while himself coughing. There is a genuine empathy one feels when Joe breaks down, imploring that he needs to save this woman. His shortcomings as a person make him less of a hero.
The film, in its story, has plot holes, the mystery is not groundbreaking, the high points come and go. Yet, Jake himself makes it relevant, and the story believable. One realizes that there is little to talk about the thriller aspect, but the film is more of a comment on human follies lead by Jake single-handedly.
So look for expressions as Joe cries, at the magnanimity of guilt that this character feels, a climax that crushes you and the truth that eventually emancipates him. Crime thrillers, there may be better in the list.