New to Netflix: ‘The Guilty’ Review
When I stumbled upon the new Netflix film ‘The Guilty‘ and on a whim decided to check it out, I had no idea what to expect. It was like 2 in the morning, I’d just smoked a jay in the backyard, and I wanted to find something to get lost into. But above everything, I need something that would keep me engrossed enough to stay awake late into the night. The truth is that those late nights and early morning hours when I don’t work are the only alone time I get at home where I can puff and enjoy a good movie or video game.
In short, ‘The Guilty’ is absolutely delivered in this department. It’s a psychological thriller that doesn’t fail to keep you on the edge of your seat, with twists and turns that can be surprising at times. But it is the kind of movie that takes the risk of only taking place in one place and mainly revolving around one character and the bulk of the plot is dialogue-driven.
When executed properly this approach to filmmaking can yield some really impressive results, but it’s incredibly difficult to pull it off well. So how does ‘The Guilty’ handle it and is it worth the watch? I got baked as hell and checked it out so you wouldn’t have to (possibly) waste your time. So let’s dive in!
Synopsis of ‘The Guilty’
The plot of ‘The Guilty’ is fairly simple – our story follows Joe, a cop who seems to be in some hot water due to an incident that happened while patrolling the streets. Throughout the film, the incident is shrouded in mystery, but we do know that whatever happened caused him to be exiled to working the 911 dispatch, and it has him preparing mentally for a court case the next morning because of it. For whatever reason, we get the impression that Joe, and his fellow officers, don’t think much of the incident, sees this new dispatch position as temporary, and expects to be back on the streets as a patrolling officer again in no time.
As the story progresses we also get the idea that Joe is a bit unhinged mentally, having obvious issues with anger and social interactions. But he also seems to have what some would consider a very noble perception of his profession – as an officer, he does see it as his duty to help anyone in need. So when Joe gets a 911 call that seems to be from a mother of two being kidnapped, he jumps up to save the day.
His job as a 911 dispatcher seems pretty straightforward, but he goes above and beyond, breaking a few rules along the way in an effort to save this woman all from his work desk. The movie continues as a rollercoaster of drama and emotional toil with a few twists and turns along the way that just might surprise you.
Director Antoine Fuqua + Screenwriter Nic Pizzolatto
Based on a 2018 Danish film of the same name, The Guilty was directed by Antoine Fuqua, famed director of such films as Training Day, and the screenplay written by Nic Pizzolatto, who created and wrote the HBO series True Detective. If you’re familiar with either name or their most famous works, you will probably get a good idea of why this is such an interesting match to make a movie like this. Both Fuqua and Pizzolatto have a strong history of creating crime dramas with transgressive characters, so adding both of their spins to this project created something I thought was truly impressive.
It was Pizzolatto’s job to write a screenplay that was engaging and deep, enough to hold viewers’ attention despite the movie only having one setting and really one character. Then it’s Fuqua’s job to manage a bit of everything while making sure visually the film remains engaging. As difficult as I’m sure this was, they do manage to do so very well.
The drama never lets up, and Fuqua understands just how to use sound and certain plot points to create real drama without even having to show the viewer what they are worried about in the film. It’s like some sort of superpower of a good director to use the viewer’s imagination against them, and Fuqua does this quite impressively.
Pizzolatto’s screenplay is everything you’d expect from his work – dark, a bit twisted, and full of depth. The best part is that although Joe’s story seems to relate heavily with current social issues, such as the discussion to reform policing and police accountability, the film does a decent job of not really “picking sides” and simply portraying different perspectives of the situation, making for what I believe was a powerful narrative that deserves a lot of discussion after viewing.
Jake Gyllenhaal Kills It
Jake Gyllenhaal has been acting for quite some time now and has made an impressive lineup of great films, but it seems like these last few years he’s taken on some really good, sometimes indie projects, that tend to fly under most people’s radars. He really caught my attention with the 2014 film Nightcrawler and the 2016 film Nocturnal Animals (which is currently on Netflix; I highly recommend checking it out). Both films made me realize just how talented he really is, and how he has a knack for choosing really interesting roles with stories full of depth and dark subjects that will be the talk of you and your friends for days after watching.
Gyllenhaal also has a knack for playing dark and troubled characters, which he brings to the screen in The Guilty. His character Joe, while seemingly an average guy, has darkness brooding inside of him that comes up to the surface every so often throughout, and the film dances on the thin line of painting him as someone to admire or someone to fear (which is probably a metaphor for how many people, mainly minorities, view the police, now that I think about it).
It’s mainly Gyllenhaal’s job to carry the film and he does so with flying colors. We become so emotionally attached to his story and character, curious to find out what exactly was the cause of him being banished to the 911 dispatch position. The line played between good and evil makes for a fun and interesting story that doesn’t simply paint him as a “bad cop” but a cop under distress that sometimes makes poor choices with the best intentions. I’m going to stop myself here because I don’t want to give anything away, but if you don’t watch this movie for anything else, Gyllenhaal’s performance is reason enough.
I really liked this movie. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not perfect, and the single setting choice may turn some people away, but the acting, directing and script were very impressive, and the plot was fairly original and engaging, touching on some very relevant social issues (managing to do so without being preachy or forcing a viewpoint down your throat).
This isn’t for anyone not in the mood for a serious movie with deep themes, but for those wanting a thinker, this might be for you. I definitely recommend a puff n’ watch party with some friends with some good discussion afterward.