“The Guilty” Movie Review: Netflix Thriller Puts Jake Gyllenhaal In A Pressure Cooker
When Jake Gyllenhaal opens his eyes, everything else on the screen fades into the background. This was true in 2001 when he played a time-looping emo teenager who followed a bunny in Donnie Darko, using his blank gaze to invoke youthful feelings of suburban alienation, confusion and hopelessness. In Two days later, his eyes perceive the apocalypse; in Jarhead, they observed the horror of war; in Zodiac, they have absorbed the immensity of the evil. At one point, probably around the time he starred in Denis Villeneuve’s grim drama in 2013 Prisoners or Dan Gilroy’s 2014 elegant thriller Somnambulist, Gyllenhaal’s expressive eyes have become less responsive and more proactive. They have become sensitive.
the guilty, a new Netflix drama directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training day, the boxing movie with Gyllenhaal left-handed), is a stripped-down showcase of Gyllenhaal’s maximalist acting style. A fairly straightforward remake of a 2018 Danish film of the same name, the thriller follows LAPD 911 operator Joe (Gyllenhaal) as he tries to solve a mystery from the confines of his office, with most of the action happening. unfolding completely off-screen as he juggles phone calls and deals with a personal crisis. The adaptation, written by Real detective creator Nic Pizzolatto, has a twist of 2000s phone thrillers like Telephone booth Where Cellular with a dash of Hitchock suspense. (If you like radio dramas or dramatic podcasts, this might remind you of them as well.) But for the most part, the story, which takes place almost entirely within the walls of the police station, creates a controlled environment for Gyllenhaal, cropped hair and bulging biceps from his short sleeves, to rummage through his acting toolbox.
As Joe’s day worsens, Gyllenhaal responds with new facial contractions, drops of sweat, carefully deployed tears, and, inevitably, a squirt of vomit coming out of his mouth. At the start of the film, Joe receives a call from a woman (Riley Keough) who appears to have dialed incorrectly or to be under the influence. Before hanging up, he discovers that she is actually being held against her will in a stray white van and pretending to talk to her child while her captor listens nearby. Joe’s desire to save her dovetails with his own lingering legal issues, which become clearer as time goes on and the night gets more stressful. If you experience anxiety on the phone while calling customer service, it won’t be a relaxing night of streaming.
The rather small but significant differences between the more muscular of Fuqua the guilty and the aftermarket original, which is currently available on Hulu, is revealing: this version opens with LA on fire, immediately raising the stakes for Joe’s shift; Joe’s domestic struggles, including a separation that forced him to stay at an Airbnb and watch too much television every night, are brought to the fore more in the narrative; and the camera, which would have been coordinated by Fuqua from a van socially distant from the set, moves a little more freely, sometimes leaving the station to the outside world. Pizzolatto’s script raises many details of the Danish version, but also increases the protagonist’s anger and rage, giving Gyllenhaal greater moments of outrage and remorse to play. In the original, Jakob Cedergren gave a classic slow-burning performance. Gyllenhaal’s approach is to go full throttle from the jump.
While some might find the film’s bombast overwhelming, the decision not to simply emulate the coiled intensity of the original is admirable. Even though people love to complain about the remakes, this version of the guilty is an effective argument for why a movie like this can be clever without feeling the need to reinvent or completely overturn the original premise. More than a retread, it is a judicious interpretation of the material, adapted to the skills of a specific performer. Fuqua and Gyllenhaal, along with a stellar voice cast including Keough, Ethan Hawke, and Peter Sarsgaard, simply turn up the volume. Then they let those eyes get to work.