Over the past few decades, we have seen Jake Gyllenhaal's massive transformation from being a Hollywood teenage heartthrob into one of the most diverse acting resumes around. Some of his best roles recently, usually revolve around high drama stories or within crime and thriller genres, like David Ayer's cop drama End Of Watch, Denis Villeneuve's Prisoners (2013) or Dan Gilroy's thriller Nightcrawler (2014). In between those years, Gyllenhaal's fun and expressive eyes became less reactive and more serious and grim. The Guilty, a new Netflix drama, feels almost like a continuation of that same persona by Gyllenhaal but with a unique and gripping story about a police officer at a 911 call centre in a high-stakes game against time to stop a kidnapping. It's a remake of the 2018 Danish film of the same name, directed by Antoine Fuqua of Training Day (2001), Brooklyn's Finest (2009) and Southpaw (2015) fame.
The film follows a day in the life of Joe Baylor (Gyllenhaal), a troubled LAPD officer, when a wildfire is raging towards Los Angeles. During a busy shift, Joe receives a cryptic call from a woman who appears to be attempting to call her child but is in fact discreetly reporting her own abduction. So working with clues, Joe throws all of his skill and intuition towards ensuring her safety. But as the severity of the crime comes to light, Joe's own psychological state begins to fray and he is forced to reconcile with demons of his own.
While it features the voices of Ethan Hawke, Riley Keough, Eli Goree, Paul Dano and a couple of on-screen cameos, The Guilty is basically Gyllenhaal's one-man show. This is one of those movies that focus on an urgent situation taking place in one location with one principal actor, like Locke (2013) with Tom Hardy was stuck in a car, or the claustrophobic Buried (2010), that featured Ryan Reynolds in a coffin. You'll be rooting for this one character from beginning to end. So it is up to Gyllenhaal to lead us through this movie. Of course, there is other dialogue that we hear and it's all very captivating. But the real power comes from Gyllenhaal's acting alone.
The camera captures a ton of different angles and facets of the character. We watch Joe work through all kinds of emotions, from fear and despair to anger and rage. And what impressed me about this story is that despite not having much detail on any of the players, so much development comes through the dialogue that unfolds during an anxiety-ridden 90 minutes. The Guilty is a well-crafted thriller. And while I found parts of the story to be repetitive, and some twists and turns predictable, the emotion-driven plot and lead character performance alone are enough to justify a watch.
- The Guilty
- Directed by Antoine Fuqua Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, with the voices of Ethan Hawke, Riley Keough and Eli Goree
- Now streaming on Netflix