"It was always meant for us to do it. But for the agent, it was just a script to sell; they didn't realise we were plotting that we were the baggage that came with the script. "-- James Wan, director of Saw
A police officer assigned alarm office despatch duty enters a race against time when he answers an emergency call from a kidnapped woman.
Review by Louise Keller: Conceptually simple, yet emotionally complex, this gripping morality tale will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Like Steven Knight's Locke (2013), in which its protagonist (Tom Hardy) goes on a life-changing journey as he talks on his car phone, Danish director Gustav Moller's The Guilty introduces us to a police officer who takes a emergency call from a kidnapped woman. As Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergen) tries to manage a series of explosive situations, he becomes policeman, counsellor, confidante, detective and friend as new facts come to light. Every bit as powerful as an action thriller, this is a riveting film in which our imagination is the driver as we are left to visualize the scenes taking place - from the dialogue we hear on the phone. There are dramatic revelations and a devastating twist as the exposition plays out on a tense backdrop of Asger's own personal issues. Don't miss this brilliant film!
When the film begins, the camera hones in on the earphone that Asger is wearing, as he takes emergency calls at the police call centre. We listen to him dealing with several calls of differing importance, but it is the call from the abducted woman that is central. Like a jigsaw puzzle, Asger must put together the pieces, as he desperately tries to understand the circumstances and how to resolve the issue. Asger's own mental state - concerning personal issues with which he needs to deal are also in play, making the stakes even higher.
Moller cleverly keeps the visuals and sounds interesting, varying angles, lighting and focus. We might be watching Cedergen's expressive eyes and face much of the time, but his eyes become a window to the intense and dramatic action happening offscreen as the intensity of the action compounds. Silence is used effectively during the exposition when we are left not only to contemplate the protagonist's thoughts but our own as we wonder to whom does the film's title refer?
Review by Andrew L. Urban: A close up movie; the face of the police officer on emergency call duty is the filmmaker's canvas as he invites us to project our emotions and thoughts onto this face. The motivations are a complex set of human sensitivities, from fear to anger, from relief to stress. It's a clever script in the best sense, well observed and focused on its intent, to draw us into the drama.
It begins with a phone call on the emergency line, a call which suggests a woman is being kidnapped. Danish filmmaker Gustav Moller is working on the notion that the strongest images in film are those in our mind, not those on the screen. With limited images but telling sounds and dialogue, The Guilty creates a unique movie inside each of our heads.
Jakob Cedergren's face is the canvas, his minimalist performance superbly successful. The voices of the characters off screen build scenarios that fill our imaginations. The screenplay dips in and out of the calls at the centre as we learn that Cedergren's Asger Holm is facing court the next day. He is on desk duties awaiting trial for a crime that he and his partner had hoped to hide.
But as the kidnap turns out to be something else, something awful, Asger faces his demons. It's a terrific film, intense and economical at 85 minutes. It doesn't waste your time or your engagement.