The Guilty (2021) ☆☆☆(3/4): A decent remake starring Jake Gyllenhaal

Netflix film “The Guilty”, which was released yesterday, is a decent American remake which depends a lot on the presence and talent of its lead performer just like its original version. I must tell you that there is not much difference between the movie and the 2018 Danish film of the same name which it is based on, but it is still a pleasure to watch thanks to not only its skillful aspects but also the intense and engaging performance at its center, and this is certainly another good example of remake.

The movie mainly revolves around Joy Baylor (Jake Gyllenhaal), a LA police department police officer who happens to be working the night shift at a 911 call center during one particularly busy night for everyone in the center. Due to a massive wildfire happening in the surrounding areas of the city, many of his co-workers are busy with handling numerous emergency calls, and we see Baylor handling some of these emergency calls without much care or interest. After all, this is his last night before returning to active duty, and he simply wants this night shift to be over as soon as possible.

And we gradually get to know about Baylor’s current problems. He has been facing a legal trouble which was resulted from an unspecified but apparently serious incident, and he must go through a court hearing before being back on streets. Because of his considerable stress from this difficult situation, he is not that well as shown from a brief bathroom scene early in the film, and he has also been separated from his wife and their little daughter, but he still refuses to say anything when he is approached by a LA Times journalist on the phone at one point.

After Baylor goes through several emergency calls which do not feel that serious to him at all, there soon comes another emergency call, and he phlegmatically responds to it as usual, but it does not take much for him to sense how urgent and desperate the caller really is. The caller is a woman who is being taken to somewhere by a van belonging to some guy, and she is apparently terrified as indirectly speaking to Baylor via her phone without getting noticed by that guy. After interacting with her a bit, Baylor immediately searches for any possible way to find her exact current location, but it seems that there are not many things he can do for helping her, and he naturally becomes more exasperated and frustrated as time is running out for him minute by minute.

Nevertheless, Baylor also becomes more determined to save the woman, and we see how he tries more for getting things done for her. Besides attempting to get any more valuable information from her, he also comes to do much more than what he is allowed to do at his current position, and he does not hesitate at all when he has to make one of his police colleagues do something not so recommendable to any police officer to say the least.

Intensely following its hero’s desperate attempt to save that woman, the screenplay by Nic Pizzolatto, who has been mainly known for his acclaimed HBO crime drama series “True Detectives”, reveals more of its hero’s deeply conflicted state of mind. Via a few personal moments of his, we come to sense more of how messy his life has been since that incident, and we come to understand that he is reaching for a sort of redemption while trying as much as he can for that woman.

Like its original version, the movie sticks close to its hero from the beginning to the end. Except several brief shots reflecting whatever is happening on the other end of the line, the movie makes our viewpoint as limited as its hero’s, and that generates more tension on the screen as we come to care and worry more about what may happen in the end. Director/co-producer Antoine Fuqua, who has been known for a number of notable works such as “Training Day” (2001) and “Southpaw” (2015), did a commendable job of constantly maintaining the level of suspense within the limited background of his movie, and I also like how some local aspects are incorporated into the story for extra dramatic effect.

Above all, the movie is carried well by Jake Gyllenhaal, who has seldom disappointed us since his breakout turn in “Donnie Darko” (2001). During a number of key moments in the film, he did a commendable job of making his hero’s small and big reactions quite real and convincing, and that is more than enough for us to get more involved into his character’s increasingly tense circumstance. While the very last scene of the film is rather redundant in my inconsequential opinion, this scene still works thanks to what has been developed so well by the movie and Gyllenhaal, and the movie is certainly another highlight in his long and distinguished acting career.

On the other end of the line, Fuqua has several notable performers provide voice performances to complement Gyllenhaal’s acting on the screen. While Riley Keough deserves to be praised for her excellent voice work, Ethan Hawke, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Paul Dano, and Peter Sarsgaard are also solid in their respective roles, and you may have some fun in recognizing their voices during your viewing.

In conclusion, “The Guilty” succeeds in distinguishing itself a bit compared to its original version, and Fuqua and Gyllenhaal, who also participated in the production of the film along with Fuqua, surely did their best for making it as compelling and entertaining as possible. Although I still prefer the original version, this remake version is fairly engaging on the whole, and it will be an interesting experience one for you especially if you enjoyed the original version.

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