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The Guilty film review

The Guilty
Written by Michael Higgs

How do you save a kidnapped woman when the only tool you have is a phone? We watched The Guilty and found out.

Gustav Möller’s directorial debut is a smash of Scandi-noir, bringing nerve-ending tension and great writing to the big screen. Featuring an excellent build-up, superb shots and a brilliant use of sound, this film impresses its audience with ingenious execution. But what makes it so successful?

What’s going on?

Police officer Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren) has been demoted to the job as an emergency dispatcher after shooting someone on the job. Answering a call from a kidnapped woman, he quickly takes a personal interest in the case, beginning a thrilling search for her and her kidnapper.

But as an emergency dispatcher, he has a severely restricted agency. Relying entirely on the phone and his persuasive abilities, he must race against time to save the endangered woman. Things go from bad to worse when Holm realises that more is at stake than a simple case of kidnapping…

Skilled script

Inspired by a great deal of classical film noir and Hitchcockian suspense, Möller’s script is overloaded with excellent dialogue including shocking moments of realisation, occasional humorous lines and heartfelt conversations between the characters. It all feels genuine and uneasy, leaving the onlookers on the edge of their seats.

The plot develops at an excellent pace, never dropping the tension for a single moment. It knows when to slow down to let Holm and the audience meditate on the horrific events that just unfolded and when to speed up towards an exciting climax.

Add to this a superb storyline which is cleverly realised without being pretentious, and you know you’re watching a top-notch film. But the film’s greatest strength is, without a doubt, its use of shots.

Clever shots

The entire film is set within the office where Holm works. We never get to see the kidnapping, the rescue, or the locations which the characters visit to solve the case. Instead, we see everything from Holm’s perspective and his conversations over the phone.

This fascinating decision is a complete success. Cedergren’s prowess as an actor captures succinctly the emotional turmoil of his character, inviting the audience to experience directly the confinement and limitations, the rising stakes and the shock of the plot’s turning points.

An excellent sound design adds perfectly to the feature’s overall impact. Throbbing noises imply moments of profound tension and the constant ringing of the phone suggesting the stress of the situation.

Verdict

The Guilty is a highly ambitious production which proves that you don’t need a high budget to create a masterpiece. While the harsh themes and brutal tension might make it too heavy-going for some, it is a tremendous piece of Danish cinema for an audience seeking an entertaining noir-inspired thriller.

The Guilty (15) is out in UK cinemas on 26th October.

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