The Guilty is the kind of movie reliant on you having a confident and successful lead actor. Aside from a few supporting characters in the emergency response building the movie is set in, the film is almost entirely focused on Jake Gyllenhaal and even more so, often directly on his face. Luckily, Gyllenhaal can handle this pressure easily.
With Gyllenhaal at the centre, it means you can then focus on the story and The Guilty is a movie with a story as about as tense as it gets. We listen in on an evening of busy emergency service calls, back-dropped by a fire in LA. Gyllenhaal’s Joe is tired, wired and frustrated until he gets a call from a lady in the back of a van being kidnapped.
To give anything more away would lead to all sorts of spoilers and this movie is best when viewed without any knowledge. What it does is build tension perfectly, from quick responses, pregnant silences and sudden disconnects. Add to this the helplessness Gyllenhaal feels as he is trying desperately to ensure this woman is okay and you get a rollercoaster of a movie. Its even more impressive considering that all of the “action” and most dramatic scenes are off-screen and all we get is the perspective of Gyllenhaal’s Joe.
This is only one mystery within the movie though and cleverly woven through is a sub-plot involving Joe himself. It slowly reveals itself as the movie plays out, but this sub-plot is also told through snatched conversations, half-said words and reflections on past events. It offers the audience intelligence that is lacking in a lot of movies, which would insist on exposition or just plainly spelling everything out.
This sub-plot gets quickly over-shadowed by the main thread and this is one full of twists, turns and unpredictable surprises. It builds well, revealing just what it needs to before hitting the audience (and Joe) with absolute gut-punch moments. More than once you will be watching wide-eyed and shocked, but utterly engrossed.
Overall, The Guilty is a fantastic vehicle for Jake Gyllenhaal. He has a lot of work to do to hold the whole film on his shoulders but does so ably. The story itself is thrilling, engrossing and full of twists, turns and shocks which will keep you engaged. A clever thriller.
Rating – 5!
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