It is interesting to learn that The Guilty with Jake Gyllenhaal is a remake of the Danish film Den Skyldige, made just a few years ago. I don’t know why someone would turn around and make an American version of the same movie that quickly, but here it is.
The film opens on officer Joe Baylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) in a 911 dispatch call center on the night shift. It seems this new station is his assigned desk duty from a pending internal investigation which is nearing trial. He’s asthmatic, recently separated from his family, and petulant with the calls he’s receiving. There is no happy and healthy vibe here. It’s overall misery.
He gets a desperate call from a woman named “Emily.” Through Joe’s intuitive interrogation, allowing only yes/no answers, he pieces together clues that reveal she has been kidnapped. He solicits help from the streets to find her and save her.
It’s so stressful to watch as Joe struggles to be a hero. He cannot catch his breath, figuratively or literally. The tension keeps rising as Joe reveals more mistakes than solutions. It’s about half way through the movie when we realize we’re watching a guy talk on the phone the whole time, trapped in this communicative space. And we’re right there with him.
Alone and sad, he continues to talk it out-reaching for answers. Gyllenhaal’s performance is striking and painful. While Joe is “just trying to do his job,” he is actually triggering internal pain that rises to the surface in the early hours of the morning. The Guilty wraps up feeling like performance art, a self-reflective therapy session with a despondent breakthrough. I guess they all can’t be happy endings.