Review: The Guilty

This Danish thriller aka Den skyldige is simply amazing. There is just one man on camera through almost all the film’s 85 minutes, and you can’t look away for a second. Asger (Jakob Cedergren) is a cop who’s been put on desk duty. Tomorrow is a trial and its outcome will decide if he’s back out with his partner. In the meantime, he’s answering the phone at 211 (Danish 911) and counting the minutes until he’s gone. That is until he answers a call and it’s a woman who’s being kidnapped.

Asger starts the night with a call from a guy who’s been mugged by a prostitute. He doesn’t have much sympathy. And there’s a junkie who doesn’t know where he is. Again no sympathy. But when a woman’s voice calls and seems to be talking to her child, he figures out that she is in trouble, that she’s been kidnapped, and that her name is Iben. Little by little through a series of calls he figures out who she is and then that her children are at home alone. And he helps as much as he can, but there is a lot more to the story, some twists and turns that I won’t go into that make it gut wrenching.

The film is all just Asger and the voices – Iben, her abductor, her 6-year-old daughter, the other dispatchers he calls, and his partner. But I doubt it would have been half as good if you could see it all. Asger is as constrained as the audience, trusting what he hears and seeing a picture based on his assumptions. And you’re with him, hoping everything is going to turn out all right. The Guilty is director Gustav Möller’s first feature and if it’s any indication, I can’t wait for his future work. And his choice of actor Jakob Cedergren as Asger was pitch perfect. I highly recommend this riveting thriller.

(It’s also Denmark’s Official 2019 Oscars Submission)

[Mainstream Chick’s take: I was rather mesmerized by The Guilty. It’s one of those films that you have to surrender yourself to. Commit to watching, no distractions. Jakob Cedergren commands the screen and makes you forget that the “action” is all “talk” – taking place in just one location. I’m a tough sell when it comes to foreign films, but this one makes the cut. It’s easily on my top 5 foreign films of the year. -hb]

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