THE GUILTY (dir. Gustav Möller): Philadelphia Film Festival review

the guilty movie reviewThe obvious point of comparison for The Guilty would be Locke, the 2013 single location thriller consisting solely of Tom Hardy driving and talking into his cell phone. Swap the car out for a police station, and the baby daddy drama for a potential kidnapping and you’ve got this taut nail-biter, featured as part of the PFF Nordic Voices block. Thematically, however, the two movies are very similar, both exploring the lost art of taking personal responsibility even when it might be detrimental to one’s well-being.

Jakob Cedergren (no, not Mark Wahlberg as one would believe looking at the film’s poster) plays Asger Holm, a police officer who, due to ambiguous circumstances, has been busted down to emergency dispatch. He’s got a hearing tomorrow, and if all goes well, tonight will be his last shift fielding an endless onslaught of phone calls from the distressed citizens of his city. But ten minutes before quitting time he receives a call from a woman in danger. She’s being held in a car against her will, and taken to a mysterious location. Jakob, seeing an opportunity to do some good, takes it upon himself to get this woman the help she needs, even if it means breaking protocol.

At a scant 85 minutes, The Guilty maintains a breathless pace from moment one, as it should considering the entire thing consists solely of a man in a police station speaking into a phone. Oddly enough, when I think back on the film, I can clearly picture a handful of scenes in full detail, despite the fact that they were merely spoken about and never depicted. This speaks, of course, to the tremendous script, which releases plot information at such a precise pace that the viewer can’t help but remain salivating for more details at every turn.  

Once everything comes together, The Guilty, like all good thrillers, weaves in a few current issues from the real world, calling into question what it is about power that causes corruption, and how the stereotypes we apply to even the most innocent situations can place power into the wrong hands.

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