The Guilty sounds like a must see for all fans of action films. The Danish film is about a police officer who has been demoted to answering emergency services (911) phone calls. During his shift, the officer receives a call from a person who has apparently been kidnapped. The movie includes many twists and turns before it’s shocking conclusion. However, instead of being the bullet ridden blood fest it sounds like, The Guilty is a mesmerizing movie that places more import on having its audience feel a hostage situation unfold in front of them instead of watching it.
The Guilty does a great job of drawing the audience into its story. The plot may sound like an easy recipe for excitement, but the actual movie takes place in one building. There is not much in the way of action and the entire film mainly consists of one man making a number of phone calls. It sounds like a pretentious arthouse film ruining a tried and true formula, but instead director Gustav Moeller’s bold decision is a stroke of genius.
The Guilty works so well due to the powerful performance of Jakob Cedergren. Cedergren plays Asger Holm. The writing wastes no time in establishing what type of person Asger is. When the audience is first introduced to Asger, he comes off as a man who says and does what he wants. It is clear is attitude has also led him to being taken off his normal patrol and landed him behind a desk answering calls.
It sounds like a trope, but Cedergren plays the part perfectly. Even in the early moments of The Guilty, Asger is likable. Asger is more of a mischievous scamp than a corrupt cop. As the film progresses and the tension picks up, Asger shows other sides to his character. He is dedicated, caring to a fault, but also manipulative and easy to anger when he does not get his way. In other words, he is like most people.
What makes Cedergren’s performance especially noteworthy is The Guilty is essentially a one person show. There is the occasional supporting character that has a line or two, but most of the movie is Cedergren reacting to voices. Cedergren is captivating since he has no one else to play off yet still shows an incredible range of emotions. At times he is literally in a room alone simply acting.
The writing in The Guilty is amazing. What starts off as a simple hostage negotiation becomes one man’s story of redemption. This film is as much a character study of Asger and expertly takes its audience on a tense ride. The movie does such a great job of telling its story it actually makes the interesting subplot almost irrelevant. The audience becomes fully invested in Asger’s character. (That being said, the secondary story ends up paying off beautifully and adds to Asger.)
Along with Cedergren’s performance are the sounds used. The film is almost like a radio play, with one person telling the narrative while sound effects are added to heighten dramatic tension. Simple noises like moving traffic, raindrops, and a ringing phone take on new meanings. This increases importance on sounds taken for granted serve to draw the audience in more.
As a side note, the audience I was a part of is an indicator of how effective The Guilty is. When watching a movie, it is not uncommon for a person to think, “am I the only one who feels this way?” As I watched The Guilty, I moved around in my seat and bit my nails. My stomach was in knots and I could feel the tension in my muscles. As good as the movie was, it was almost uncomfortable watching it.
I soon noticed I was not the only one. Not only were people squirming in the seats, there were others that were talking to themselves as if trying to calm themselves down. Once the ending credits started to roll, more than one person let out a relieved sigh. This was a very unique movie going experience.
The Guilty is one of the best movies of 2018. The synopsis sounds too generic, the plot sound unexciting, but the movie is an experience that every movie fan will love. Movies like this may seem like a dime a dozen, but there is nothing like The Guilty.