Helvede, well if it isn’t another awesome Danish movie? The Guilty AKA Den Skyldige is an intensely gripping single-location thriller about a 911 operator trying to save a kidnapped woman. I guess they don’t have 911 in Denmark but you get the point. The story unfolds in real time over the course of eighty minutes with a ferocious pace. And right off the bat, I have to tell you that there are two The Guilty movies. There’s the original Danish version from 2018, which I recommend you watch first. And then there’s the 2021 version starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Now, the English-speaking remake isn’t too bad but it’s certainly not better than the original.
The Guilty or Den Skyldige in Danish, is a gritty and realistic movie offering well-written dialogue and one hell of a performance from Jakob Cedergren. He was so natural without any hints of overacting or melodrama that he deserves a fucking Oscar. The camera is pointed squarely at him for most of the time and you can see how someone else would try to convey different emotions at different times. Perhaps they would move their eyes frantically or tap their fingers or something. Jakob didn’t do that. He did what a policeman and someone who’s used to being in these intense situations would do. And it made all the difference.
Being an emergency call operator is a difficult and nerve-wracking job. I hope they get some extra pay or benefits because that shit is wild. I mean, someone’s life is hanging in balance and you have to remain calm and find a solution. This is also quite an intriguing job for us who don’t have to do it. I loved watching how the whole system works, what kind of data they get and what are the rules. The Guilty is not the first movie to explore the whole emergency call operator thing. I remember watching The Call with Halle Berry back in 2013. While the stories are somewhat similar that one was a much bigger movie featuring more locations and actors.
The movie opens with a few warm-up calls sort-of-speak before getting to the real deal. Once that phone rings the tension starts steadily rising until the excellent finale. Every ten minutes, I wondered how are they going to keep this momentum going. And every eleven minutes I completely forgot what I was thinking about because this movie is so damn gripping. I think that not only the severity of the situation but also its inherent reality were the things that got me. However, this might be an easy call for some of the veterans out there.
In fact, perhaps while our protagonist was dealing with this phone call, another one, even worse might’ve come in. I also don’t want you to think that this movie is all about that one phone call. No, it’s much more than that. Apart from showing us what’s going on in these situations, The Guilty is also a character study. We will come to learn that Asger Holm is a far more complex individual than he initially lets on. And on top of all these layers, we have the question that will be hanging in the air throughout the movie: What would you do in this situation?
Director: Gustav Möller
Writers: Gustav Möller, Emil Nygaard Albertsen
Cast: Jakob Cedergren, Jessica Dinnage, Johan Gotthardt Olsen, Omar Shargawi, Jacob Lohmann
Fun Facts: Gustav Möller, the director and writer of the movie, decided to make it after hearing an audio recording of a woman who was kidnapped talking to an emergency service operator over the phone.