In order to generate genuine suspense with an authentic sense of mystery, it’s important that you find an effective way to tell a crafty story. To do that, it’s best if you’re able to reveal things only when you need to while somehow not holding too much back from the audience. If done properly, you may end up with a film similar to The Guilty. It’s told in a way that’s smooth and clever while managing to somehow remain emotionally rugged and open.
After being demoted and stuck behind a desk for the time being, police officer Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren) has settled into an uncomplicated night as an emergency dispatcher. That’s probably all he could want, but that changes when he receives a suspicious phone call from a kidnapped woman who then disconnects abruptly. Forced to deal with his own issues as well as not being able to get out there himself, Asger has no choice but to use the eyes and ears of other officers to track down the missing woman before a bad night becomes even worse.
Visually, The Guilty is one of those rare movies that decides to stay with the main character the whole time. We hear the voices of others, but that’s about it. Outside of a couple of moments where we get a glimpse of some of Asger’s fellow officers, no one else is seen throughout the rest of the picture. In the beginning, I had my doubts about this since it could have just been used as a gimmick, but there’s actually a reason why this works and why the film benefits from this route.
A part of the reason why this is more than just a gimmick is based on the story we get as the movie unfolds. Not seeing and only hearing allows us to imagine things and attempt to put it all together ourselves. This takes things to another level as our minds wander while we attempt to understand what is taking place. The voice acting also helps out here as the people we hear sound the way they would if they were truly under stress during the tense moments depicted.
As far as the film’s protagonist is concerned, you’re not as intrigued by him as a person as much as you are by his predicament and what’s going on around him. Whether it’s the people on the phone or the numerous obstacles that seem to get in the way in some instances, your attention is more on how he’ll handle what’s in front of him than anything. From my perspective, this is one benefit that comes from strong storytelling. The lead is here and you feel his presence, but everything isn’t completely dependent on him.
All of what we have in The Guilty comes together to create a thriller that you won’t really get to experience anywhere else at the moment. The film is able to accomplish this based primarily on its structure, its content, and its ability to stimulate viewers mentally. Thinking back on it, I don’t know how plausible everything in the movie is, but what’s included allows the thrilling nature of it all to take control and become a memorable cinematic journey for those of us who watch.
Director: Gustav Möller
Film Length: 85 minutes
Release Date: October 19, 2018 (U.S.)
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
- Score - 7.5/107.5/10