No self-respecting film reviewer should say too much about the police thriller, The Guilty. How then can I encourage you to see it?
I can point to the compelling central performance by Jakob Cedergren as Asger Holm, a Copenhagen police officer restricted to desk duty following the fatal shooting of a suspect. Cedergren is on screen throughout – literally – and he commands your attention and, very importantly, your sympathy for the 85 minutes of the film’s running time.
I can commend the daring of director Gustav Möller in restricting the action to a single location. In some films, this can stretch credibility, for example, in Buried in which a civilian truck driver in Iraq (Ryan Reynolds) is entombed with his cell phone, or Locke, in which the titular character (Tom Hardy) juggles multiple crises over the phone whilst driving to London. In The Guilty, it feels less of a stunt, mainly because it is the route by which Asger makes at least one terrible mistake.
I can enthuse about the suspenseful plot that puts you in Asger’s shoes throughout whilst vividly suggesting the horror that he has to deal with on a moment-by-moment basis.
I can flag up the dark humour that erupts from the other incidents that Asger has to deal with as he takes calls from some less than sympathetic victims of crime and circumstance. Danish humour tends to be on the droll side; Danes are plain speakers.
So you might have seen films like The Call in which Halle Berry plays a 911 operator who is telephoned by a teenage girl (Abigail Breslin) kidnapped by a serial killer – it was Berry’s biggest solo hit in the last decade. The Guilty, which also puts an operator in the centre of a situation, is more honest. It certainly realises the potential of its idea, unlike Phone Booth in which an obnoxious public relations guy (Colin Farrell) takes an anonymous call from a sniper (Kiefer Sutherland) who manipulates him throughout – director Joel Schumacher couldn’t save the film from becoming ridiculous. I should also mention Cellular in which another kidnap victim (this time played by Kim Basinger) rings a complete stranger (Chris Evans) and has to convince him that she has been snatched; Jason Statham was on villain duty for that one.
You don’t need stars to make a telephone-based thriller exciting and morally complex. Möller proves it. OK, it is in Danish with English subtitles – if that puts you off, I cannot help you. For the rest of us, it is the thriller of the year.
The Guilty is out in cinmeas Thursday 25!