Netflix UK film review: The Guilty
James R | On 01, Oct 2021
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Riley Keough, Peter Sarsgaard
Where to watch The Guilty online in the UK: Netflix UK
“What is the address of your emergency?” “I don’t know.” That’s the sound of Jake Gyllenhaal on the phone in Netflix’s The Guilty, a film in which not knowing and not seeing are crucial.
Gyllenhaal plays Joe Baylor, a 911 responder who spends his days jumping from one call to the next, assigning the right emergency service to each situation. A cop by by training, he’s manning the phones after being suspended from active duty, and while he awaits a trial to rule on his past actions and future career, he finds himself trapped in a present that unfolds with almost real-time urgency.
If all this sounds familiar, that’s because it is: Antoine Fuqua’s thriller is based on the 2018 Danish movie of the same name. Transposing the action to the States brings an immediate edge to Baylor’s backstory, which is echoed by the devastating fires unfolding around Los Angeles throughout the runtime – a double whammy of context that positions this story of a questionable police officer seeking redemption against a backdrop of civilisation in chaos.
That’s about as far as Nic Pizzolato’s script goes in justifying remaking the film for US audiences, with his script largely sticking to the beats and dialogue of the original. But what does justify the film’s existence – and a place on your watchlist – are the other two star names involved.
Antoine Fuqua is no stranger to building tension in the gritty gutters of American policing, and he takes the single-location premise and zooms in with a gripping inmediacy, leaning into the uncertainty driven by Baylor’s lack of knowledge or control. It’s a dizzying montage of close-ups and even more close-ups, served up with rapid but not distracting editing to keep us on our toes.
But there’s no doubting that this is Gyllenhaal’s show, and he steps up to the plate with a glowering intensity. His dubious man of the law is just hotheaded enough to make him unnerving, frequently banging the table with his fist and rudely cutting off his colleagues – but he’s also trying to do the right thing, frustrated by the hampered resources at his disposal. What ensues is riveting not just because we know as little as he does but also because we don’t trust his ends-before-means reaction to each new drip-fed piece of information.
It’s a tough act to put on a one-man show but Gyllenhaal and Fuqua know the key is to make it more than that, generously making sure that Riley Keough, in particular, makes an impact as Emily, the abducted woman on the phone Joe is trying to save. The result may not be the most original project, but it’s a remake that retains the original’s simple suspense, which makes it a compelling success.
The Guilty is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.