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The Guilty Movie Review: An affecting one-man show from Jake Gyllenhaal- Cinema express

The Guilty Movie Review: An affecting one-man show from Jake Gyllenhaal

The quality of Jake's performance is such that his anxiety seeps out of the screen affecting the viewer. It is immensely contagious, and every time Joe took a puff out of his inhaler, I felt relieved

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Published: 04th October 2021
The Guilty Movie Review

At the outset, I will make it clear that this review will not compare this Jake Gyllenhaal's remake with the original Danish film of the same name; simply because I haven’t seen the latter. Having said that, this chamber drama turned out to be an exhilarating experience. Jake takes up almost all of the screen time in The Guilty, but you don’t get time to think about it. The trailer of the film pretty much sums up the plot: an officer at the 911 dispatch centre goes out of his way to save a woman, who seems to be abducted by her husband. However, The Guilty has much more going for it than the intriguing plot. 

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Riley Keough, Christina Vidal, Adrian Martinez

For one, it has Jake’s captivating performance as Joe Bayler, an anxious demoted police officer. The quality of his performance is such that his anxiety seeps out of the screen affecting the viewer. He becomes this ticking time bomb and we worry every moment when he is going to blow up taking everyone with him. 

Director Antoine Fuqua and writer Nic Pizzalatto have done an ingenious job with how they disseminate information. The expositions are calculated and seamless that not even a scene feels like it was written for the sake of the audience. A few minutes into the film, you get a sense of Joe's hard-boiled nature, and his disregard for the job despite being good at it. Antoine also triumphs without showing all the cards till the very end. Though the title pretty much gives away that guilt is the driving force of Joe, who is hellbent on saving Emily Lighton (Riley Keough), we are pretty much kept in the dark concerning the magnitude of the damage. I mean, we do have an idea of the nature of the crime Joe might have done, but we don’t know why Joe sees saving Emily will bring about redemption.

What I found more fascinating about The Guilty is that despite relying heavily on the dialogues, the film also has a strong visual language. One can still follow the whole plot by just listening to the film, but I wonder if the experience would still instill claustrophobia in them.

At the core of the film is this optimistic idea that every person deserves redemption, and the irony is that it is told through a protagonist, who seems hopeless. I found his predicament similar to Nic Pizzalatto’s Rust Chole (Mathew McConaughey) from True Detective. Joe wants to save Emily to save himself. I wouldn’t be surprised the film would be criticised as a justification of police brutality as we don’t fully know the nature of things Joe is guilty of. However, the film does make a real case for anyone who genuinely feels guilty. 

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