Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Riva Marker, David Litvak
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Running Time: 90 mins
The Guilty is an American film about an emergency call centre operator who finds himself in a race against time after receiving a call from a woman who has been abducted.
The Hollywood remake of a fantastic Danish film from a few years back, The Guilty is a perfectly engaging thriller, but one that lacks the intensity and intimacy of the original. Despite a strong performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, this film is much more by-the-numbers, ultimately missing out on what makes this story so exhilarating.
But let’s start with the positives. In the lead role, Jake Gyllenhaal is the right blend of likable and imperfect for the main character. While his charisma means that you’re always happy to support him as he tries to rescue a kidnapped woman, he also plays up the darker side of his character enough to make him more than a one-dimensional hero.
While it’s fair to say that Gyllenhaal never appears quite as believably exasperated as Jakob Cedergren in the original, he’s able to make some of this Hollywood version’s more melodramatic scenes work, bringing a physical intensity to the role that the Danish original doesn’t have.
And that’s one of the main themes through this remake. Compared to an understated original with bubbling tension, this version of The Guilty is a lot more brash with its emotion and action, something that maybe works to appeal to a wider audience, but also serves to cheapen the story at hand.
As engaging as the film is throughout, it’s not a movie that had me on the edge of my seat. The use of physical space isn’t particularly claustrophobic or ominous, in the way that the original was, and this film doesn’t put as much effort into building its story towards a nail-biting crescendo.
This film is rather episodic with its action and tension, focusing on flashpoints between Gyllenhaal and the people he communicates with over the phone. That makes for some captivating highs, but the periods in between are rather uneventful, lacking the suspense that pervades through every minute of the Danish original.
What’s more, this film is a little too heavy-handed in its attempts to bring the main character’s personal life into the main story. There is an interesting background to this character that links up nicely with the main plot in the Danish version, but this film goes a little too hard on some of the sob story moments, which ultimately serves to make them feel less genuine, and far less emotionally resonant.
All of this comes together to make a film that’s perfectly fine, but a far cry from the full potential of the story it tells. While engaging at moments, it suffers from a heavy-handed and more episodic adaptation of an already brilliant screenplay.
So, my recommendation would be to watch the original Danish film from 2018, which is a brilliantly claustrophobic, nail-biting affair with far more emotional depth than this remake. And that’s why I’m giving The Guilty (the Hollywood version) a 7.1 overall.