Film Review

Antoine Fuqua’s The Guilty

Single location thrillers seem to be the rage these days, intermittently anyways. Ryan Reynolds buried alive, Stephen Dorff locked in the trunk of a car, Tom Hardy in a vehicle winding its way through the UK to London, and now we have a severely stressed out Jake Gyllenhaal as a 911 operator in Antoine Fuqua’s The Guilty, an absolutely stunning film and the best of the bunch so far in this sub-genre. Jake is a decorated LAPD detective, now disgraced after a vague incident we gradually learn more about, stuck in an emergency call centre, apparently the proverbial doghouse for demoted cops. A routine evening turns disastrous when he receives a frantic call from a young woman (Riley Keogh) who has been kidnapped by her unstable ex boyfriend (Peter Sarsgard) and is somewhere out there. Using the resources he has he tries to track them down before inevitable violence ensues while processing the emotional turmoil of his own recent past, and how this terrifying new situation affects it, all set against the chaos of a hellish wildfire setting the LA hills ablaze and turning first responder services upside down. For a film where most of the actors are offscreen we sure get some big talent in here including Ethan Hawke, Christina Vidal, Paul Dano and even a brief Bill Burr. The film relies on Gyllenhaal’s performance to get the story and themes across and the man is just fucking sensational here in what may be his best performance to date. There’s an unearthly anguish, frantic mania and deep unrest to his portrayal (the title makes tragic sense as the film progresses) and he hits every note with intimidating precision and organic emotional truth. Keogh and Saarsgard have difficult tasks in creating two secondary characters who we never see but must feel, sound and affect us as real human beings and not just voices from a telephone, they both do unbelievably well, mining psychological depths and putting forth heartbreaking, haunting vocal performances. Antoine Fuqua is responsible for some of my favourite films of all time (Training Day, King Arthur, The Replacement Killers) and I’m glad he broke free of his tired Equalizer routine to bring us this. Working with an intense, visceral script from True Detective’s Nic Pizzolatto, he turns what could have been a gimmicky procedural into a showstopper of a thriller full of kinetic, anxiety fuelling energy, challenging moral themes and career best performances from Gyllenhaal, Sarsgard and Keogh. One of the best films of the year.

-Nate Hill

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