Friday, October 8, 2021

The Guilty: Movie Review

A tense tale of past crimes, current crimes and atonement.
It’s just Jake Gyllenhaal and a few hours in a 911 operating center. A large budget movie with a very simple set-up. It’s Joe vs the world. Joe (Gyllenhaal) is an LA cop, who has been jettisoned to answering 911 calls. He hates it there, his colleagues aren’t super thrilled that he’s there, and he has an ex-wife trying to keep him away from their daughter.   2021

Directed by: Antoine Fuqua

Screenplay by: Nic Pizzolatto
Based on the film Den Skyldige

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal

It’s clear that he’s angry and his past, whatever that may be, is catching up to him. It can be a hard movie to get into since Joe is not sympathetic at all. He’s less than helpful as a 911 operator, and as he’s trying to avoid paying for his crimes, his anger and stubbornness is likely going to indirectly lead to a few more crimes going unnoticed. Except in just a few minutes, he does notice. A woman calls 911 trying to alert him to the fact that she’s currently in the car with her abductor.

Meanwhile on this particular night in LA, there’s a massive fire burning. The fire is an excellent backdrop. It’s on all the screens in the operating center, it’s invading the calls, it’s impacting his ability to help the abducted woman. The fire just keeps on burning and Joe can’t get away from it. The fire aids the story at a few times, but the movie is not about the fire. It’s just in the background – symbolism. Fire has quite a few symbolic meanings, and that ambiguity helps the film. Passion and death – the story of abducted woman, her ex-husband is the prime suspect, and there appears to be bodies in his trail. Destruction and hope – Joe’s career is on its last legs and he has destroyed most of his hope, not counting the destruction he has left in his trail. But ultimately it’s about purging and resurrection – is Joe finally ready to atone for his past sins and start his life anew?

The reveal of Joe’s past crimes isn’t exactly subtle. On one level it feels like it should build to something more, but on the other, it’s a very fitting and real look at today’s society and the film does strike a very good balance between Joe’s past and the crime currently unfolding. The tension and drama created through the in-progress kidnapping is well done and it’s still an interesting story on its own.

But The Guilty is about Joe. Gyllenhaal never wavers from his unsympathetic character. He often goes too far in the name of the greater good in helping the current victim, and yet, we as viewers also know that he went too far in the name of power and abused his position as a cop. The movie could be about so much more, but it really only speaks to whether Joe is ready to admit his guilt.