Danish thriller THE GUILTY succeeds where the Tom Hardy-starring LOCKE failed miserably. Set in one location, a 9-1-1 (1-1-2 in Denmark) call center, the film trap the audience in the claustrophobia of a man trying to save an abducted woman while at his work desk. Jakob Cedergren shines as Asger, a cop exiled to the call center after an on-job shooting. His attitude at the opening of the film is disgusting, tell people tripping on drugs ‘it’s your own fault, though, right?’ so he has miles to go as the film progresses.
His backstory comes out in drips – his wife has left him, and he has put his partner in a difficult position. His day and outlook on the gig changes when a call comes in from a woman named Iben, trapped in a car on the way to who knows where. As Asgar deftly picks out info through yes and no questions, and shuffles between Iben and the local police dispatch, he rises to moment, investing all his energy into helping the woman despite his commanding officer telling him to go home and rest before his hearing tomorrow.
Playing out in real time, and trapped to essentially two rooms miles away from the action, THE GUILTY keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. It works as both a procedural thiller and a slow-burn character study, unraveling the layers of Asgar’s back story minute by minute. The cinematography, despite the limited palette, keeps the audience right in the moment, with intense close-ups of faces and long lingering shots of backs as we wait for the next call to come it. Also very praiseworthy is the work of sound editor Oskar Skriver, who fills the seconds with sonic intensity as we strain through the phone earpierce to pick apart the mystery.
I won’t reveal all the twists of the film, but needless to say, nothing and no one is who they seem, and the title of the film really captures the story as the audience tries to figure out just who is ‘The Guilty.’ This is a very solid film that I think will do quite well on the fest cirtcuit and I can see playing high profile genre fests as well. As a one-man one-room show, THE GUILTY bests the aforementioned LOCKE because you not only are trying to figure out the mystery, but you actually care about all the people involved, both in the room and on the phone.