After playing a boxer seeking redemption for Antoine Fuqua in The Rage in the belly, Jake Gyllenhaal found a director on Netflix for the new (and remake) film The Guilty, in which he plays a demoted cop on the 911 emergency call service, who tries to rescued a depressed woman on the other end of the line.
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This new Netflix-branded production imitates The Guilty, the stunning 2018 Danish thriller film directed by Gustav Möller and co-written by Emil Nygaard Albertsen. The Antoine Fuqua-directed remake (Training Day, The Fall of the White House) thus opens up a similarly tense plot, barely reworked by screenwriter Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective).
Therefore The Guilty has its roots in the emergency call center and relies on tight framing and nervous editing to break the immobility of Joe Baylor, a protagonist who often clings to his chair. Without forgetting all the work on sound and mixing (phone calls, inaudible sounds, surrounding noise, silence, breath, tears) to allow us to imagine the dirty and unpredictable canvas that forms off the screen and sets up an atmosphere that triggers anxiety and urgency.
Hence, the plot is just as shocking and gripping as in the original which draws on all its writing qualities and production tips, which makes it more of a translation exercise on a bigger budget. And among the aesthetic changes, we first lament the facticity of the frame, which contrasts with Gustav Möller’s minimalism and deeper realism. From the start, with an apocalyptic opening scene, which teases a series B disaster by bringing Los Angeles in flames (when the facts are firmly entrenched in reality), alongside the usual flashes of news to engender worrying context.
Meanwhile, the cramped rooms stripped away from the previous film, giving way to more open space, are still dark and impersonal, but far less stuffy, making the closed doors less oppressive and claustrophobic than they should be. Even more so when the film briefly escapes open space or attempts to create a window to the outside world with a giant screen that contributes to the falsehood of the setting.
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If he really invested in the role of Joe and easily hogged the camera, Jake Gyllenhaal wasn’t the only one to bring the film. There’s also Riley Keough, who doesn’t physically appear on screen, but perfectly conveys the hopelessness, fear, and vulnerability of Emily’s character, much like the other voice actors (Peter Sarsagaard, Ethan Hawke, Paul Dano or young Christiana Montoya) provide real intensity and credibility. at the event.
However, the actor hides the archetypal role of a vicious and disobedient police officer, who has been demoted to an office position for reasons revealed throughout the story – and is an opportunity to slip in a quick message about impunity for police violence. Aggressive towards his comrades and correspondents, Joe is a grenade detached, ball of nerves and stress devoured by the burden that sacrificed his family’s life, history to overwhelm the characters a little more and to evoke pity in a way too easy and wearable.
With Emily’s call, she finds her quest for redemption. Saving Emily was saving her soul, even if it meant breaking the law once again, the day before the trial where she was at great risk. After internalizing and suppressing his hatred, Joe and his translator react in a more expansive and pathetic way. This new interpretation thus contrasts with Danish actor Jakob Cedergren’s more restrained and authentic performance.
In its final act, the film takes a more melodramatic turn to move away from the thriller and race against the time set of the first exchange between Joe and Emily. This more theatrical and sluggish aspect is amplified by an almost magical and very Hollywood ending, which finishes breaking up the calm and cold atmosphere of the first film.
More generally, The Guilty is burdened with allegories and other symbolic burdens, first of all the flames reflecting the anger and regret consuming Joe from within (besides unnecessarily complicating the scenario to exaggerate the surrounding panic), but also his asthma, which should accentuate the state of being dead. weakness, both literally and figuratively. What only holds back the charm of the process upon which everything is based.