The Guilty: One-Man Show

Jake Gyllenhaal in The Guilty

The Guilty
(Streaming on Netflix October 1)

The dialogue-rich story of the worst night in a 911 operator’s life could have worked as a radio drama, but that would have meant missing Jake Gyllenhaal’s iron-clad performance in this taut psychological thriller.

He’s in virtually every frame as Joe Baylor, a street cop who’s stuck on Emergency Dispatch duty pending trial for police brutality. Gyllenhaal is almost animalistic here:  mouth taut, eyes darting like rococheting bullets as a life-and-death scenario unravels over the air, maddeningly out of reach.

One can guess the film’s conceit—a man alone in a room having desperate conversations with unseen callers—arose out of necessity in the COVID-19 filmmaking era. But art often arises out of the bonds of limitation, and The Guilty is a case in point. Besides the visual riches of Gyllenhaal’s performance, the film showcases some truly spectacular voice acting from stars like Ethan Hawke, Paul Dano, Riley Keough and Peter Sarsgaard.

The film is pretty much a shot-for-shot remake of a 2018 Danish film of the same name, but director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer)—who ordinarilly loves to expand his action films into sprawling set pieces—wisely sticks to the prototype. This may well be the first film Fuqua’s made in which the hero does not walk slowly away from an exploding car or building, but Gyllenhaal provides all the fireworks he needs.

Published by

Bill Newcott

Award-Winning Film Critic, Columnist, TV Host and Creator of AARP's Movies For Grownups, Bill writes for publications including National Geographic, The Saturday Evening Post, Delaware Beach Life, Alaska Beyond and Northwest Travel.

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