“The Guilty” Movie Review

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as 911 dispatcher Joe Bayler trying to help a woman caller in the new Netflix thriller “The Guilty.” The film was released on Oct. 1 and is a remake of a 2018 Danish film of the same name. I have not seen the original, so I cannot make comparisons between it and the remake, but I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the movie I watched. 

The film follows Joe Bayler, a police detective who has been demoted to being an emergency phone operator. The reason for his demotion also seems to be the reason for his strained relationship with his wife—who he is separated from, and therefore sees their young daughter very little—and his cold, frustrated demeanor. When Joe answers a call from a woman named Emily, played by Riley Keough, who seems to have been abducted, he makes it his mission to get her home safe. At first, this plot may sound a bit predictable and something that has been done before. Well, technically it has, but if you haven’t already seen the original, this is still very exciting to watch. Without spoiling anything, there are twists and turns that take the film beyond a simple rescue mission. I found myself getting extremely nervous for the characters and having emotional reactions to their troubles.

A big reason as to why the film works so well is its lead. Gyllenhaal is amazing at making his performance believable to the audience. His emotions seem very organic and true to the character. Even though Joe can be unlikeable, Gyllenhaal manages to play him in a way that gives him depth. I didn’t necessarily like the person Joe is, but I was rooting for him the entire time. There is real development of the character throughout the movie and it’s very satisfying to watch. As the cinematography and lighting didn’t stand out and was very average by today’s standards, the film benefitted from having such a captivating leading man.

For the first half of the film, I couldn’t help but think about how this movie would be perceived by audiences and critics. The film, at first, seems to be about a troubled cop who just wants to do good. Joe even says, “We’re the police. We’re the protectors.” That had me thinking about recent events in the U.S. which have led to conversations about police officers and the law enforcement system in general. Because of this, I was initially put off by this film telling another story of a cop who wants to do good but just can’t seem to. It didn’t seem appropriate right now. I’m glad I kept paying attention, though, because the plot ended up being so much more profound and relevant than I expected. I encourage people to watch it even if they’re hesitant, because once you get to those twists and turns, everything changes. This isn’t a puff piece about a do-gooder police officer, this is a movie about failing systems and the people crushed under their weight. 

While this film isn’t particularly unique or groundbreaking, I did find it to be impactful and extremely interesting. Gyllenhaal gave this film everything he had and it really paid off. I very much enjoyed getting to see a good thriller that I might have scrolled past when browsing Netflix.

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