Watch the Original
By Sadira Sittampalam
The 2021 American remake of the 2018 Danish film The Guilty does what most American remakes do – miss the point entirely. To be fair, I haven’t seen the original Danish version, but I am assuming it was good enough to deserve an American remake in the first place. This film takes place over the course of a single morning in a 911 dispatch call centre, with call operator Joe Baylor attempting to save a caller who appears to be in grave danger.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, I was quite disappointed with the way this movie turned out, especially considering that it came from a capable director who got to work with such an interesting premise. The entire movie is supposed to take place in a single setting – the 911 dispatch call centre. This drew an obvious similarity to 2013’s Locke where the entire movie took place inside a car. However, Locke managed a remarkably better job at handling this.
The Guilty very quickly got boring, as while Jake Gylenhaal is certainly pleasant to look at, there wasn’t enough meaning in how they shot him. I didn’t feel like the camera angles were giving me anything other than the obvious about a scene, and there was no extra information that the angles added, so it felt very random and quite a big waste. There was so much potential with such a limited set, yet they managed to do the bare minimum. This also affected the pacing as some scenes felt really long or dragged out as there was no fresh substance for our eyes to look at.
Moving on to the story, there were a lot of clichés throughout and I did think quite a few things were a little contrived. Nevertheless, the overarching storyline was captivating and did offer some thought about Joe’s character arc. However I still do think this could have been done better, and it honestly just made me more curious to watch the original Danish film as I’m sure a lot of things were clearer and more concise.
I didn’t feel like this movie ever properly kept me suspenseful or on the edge of my seat, even though that was the entire point of this thriller. However, it did keep some of my attention as I did want to know how everything would be solved. Since everything takes place in that singular setting, we only hear whatever happens outside through phone calls. Thus, sound design was something that was very important in this movie and I was a little underwhelmed with it as there was no creativity with how they conveyed certain plot points.
This also might be due to the dialogue itself as everything felt a little overexplained. In general I thought there should have been more of a reliance on hearing the sounds of what was going on rather than someone explaining it. Even the soundtrack itself was really invasive and unnecessary. It was some of the most generic music ever and I didn’t like it whenever it was played as it tried to force you to feel the emotions of the scene rather than simply letting you experience the emotions of the scene.
The only good thing about this movie was Gyllenhaal who was on screen for practically the entire runtime. Every scene was almost painfully close up to his face which did put a lot of pressure on him to deliver with every line he spoke. Yet he managed to put on a powerhouse performance, slowly and subtly bringing out every external stress put on him throughout the movie. It was quite a show to watch, yet it was not enough to redeem this movie from all the other aspects of its make that were quite sub-par.
Overall, this is a movie that I’m never going to watch again. However, the premise and the setting seem interesting enough for me to want to check out the original. This movie still feels like a very unnecessary addition to film though as you can watch practically the same thing, or supposedly better, in the form of the original Danish film. This movie was essentially created for the people who don’t like to read subtitles and if you really don’t like reading subtitles I’d still suggest watching 2013’s Locke over this.