The Guilty (2018)
Director (and co-screenplay): Gustav Moller
Cast: Jakob Cedergren, Jessica Dinnage, Omar Shargawi, Johan Olsen, Jacob Lohmann, Katinka Evers-Jahnsen, Jeanette Linkbaek
A police officer assigned alarm dispatch duty enters a race against time when he answers an emergency call from a kidnapped woman. – IMDB
Suffice to say that I know nothing about Danish films. The Guilty is a one location thriller which sets an emergency office dispatch who picks up a call at the end of his shift from an abducted woman. Right away, we can think about movies like The Call (review) but while the concept of it is similar, The Guilty stays true to its one location. Other than a few random conversations with his colleagues in the same office, the bulk of the film is through different phone conversations. Its also pretty much a one man show and a rather thrilling one at that.
One location is just a set up and because of it, it creates the mystery of the unknown. Who is on the other line? Are they trustworthy? What is happening on the other side of the screen? Being a thriller, it also adds the expected desire to decipher the twist as we grab on to as many details in the conversation and the nature of the conversation and the character reactions through the dialogue. A convincing voice cast and a compelling main character is essential along with a captivating dialogue and pacing of the events and reveals to create a hook. Luckily, The Guilty achieves that almost completely. It drops reveals and hints and at the same time, the abducted woman is a vessel to somehow understand our main character better as we see that he has some secrets of his own that he is trying to come to terms with. All these elements gives him depth and development. Just as the abducted woman also has another level of depth to be discovered and where do these stories compare.
With that said, Jakob Cedergren is fantastic in this. We see closeups and how he emotes. His feeling and emotions despite having no dialogue. There is so much strength and conviction to his performance that we believe in the urgency of the situation and the logic behind his actions. At the same time, we can’t neglect the voice work from Jessica Dinnage who voices Liben, the abducted woman as well as the the myriad of characters, especially the young Mathilde, voiced by Katinka Evers-Jahnsen.
Good thrillers are hard to come by. By staying to the one location and having a strong main cast and compelling character arcs and gripping dialogue, The Guilty does a lot of things right. Its not complicated and the twist might be slightly expected but buying into the characters makes all the difference here.