VOD film review: The Guilty (2018)
James R | On 19, Oct 2021
Director: Gustav Möller
Cast: Jakob Cedergren, Jessica Dinnage
The only thing more thrilling than having your socks knocked off by a film is discovering afterwards that it’s someone’s directorial debut. The Guilty (Den skyldige), a 2018 drama from Gustav Möller, is one of those films – a grippingly confident piece of storytelling with a low-key scale but high-impact suspense.
Jakob Cedergren plays Asger, a police officer who is working on the emergency services response desk while awaiting a hearing. While we piece together what for from a string of inquisitive and unfriendly calls, he’s piecing together his own puzzle – the case of a woman, Iben (Jessica Dinnage), who calls and informs him that she’s been kidnapped and is in a van somewhere outside Copenhagen.
The ensuing mystery is unravelled almost in real-time, and there’s tension in joining Asger in the deductions about what’s really going on. We can tell that he’s a capable and smart officer, as he encourages Iben to speak as if she’s talking to a child and only answer yes or no questions. But we can also tell that something’s a bit off, as Asger repeatedly snaps, or comes close to snapping, as his shift goes on – he’s an uncomfortable presence, even at his own desk, and Cedergren plays him with less volume and intensity than Gyllenhaal’s counterpart in the remake. It’s a performance of micro facial expressions and cold, darting eyes.
Möller never lets us outside of the call centre, avoiding the temptation to bring wider context to the story – and that close-up style really helps sustain the tension all the way to the end, as the twisting plot builds up and undercuts our expectations. The conclusion, when it hits, comes with a bleak edge that doesn’t carry a Hollywood-friendly hope of redemption – just a closed door with no clear way to go.