I’m always down to watch a new Jake Gyllenhaal film. It’s a win-win, I always get to see a solid performance and one of my top crushes. Jake’s good looks don’t have anything to do with the role or the film, I just like to talk about it! Like always, he gives a very strong performance and really carries the film well. The level of intensity and despair he is able to tap into and portray is very impressive. The script, while it isn’t perfect, makes for a mostly thrilling ride with some dark twists and turns along the way.
Gyllenhaal has proven that he can handle just about any genre of film. His portrayal here as a broken police officer attempting to save a woman in danger is captivating. The performance is consistently convincing all the way through but is particularly engrossing towards the end when certain things are revealed. The script is not quite up to par with Gyllenhaal’s performance but it’s still overall satisfying.
The main fault of the script that holds it back from being great instead of good is that it slows down too much at the middle point. Luckily, the clever plot twist towards the end and what unravels with Gyllenhaal’s character almost makes up for the middles shortcomings. In addition to the interesting plot twist, the way the script draws out Gyllenhaal’s character’s humanity and emotion is pretty well done. I was wondering if this film, being centered around police officers, would touch on police brutality. The film does address this subject and I thought they did it in an organic way.
When this is first introduced I was a little afraid the way they were addressing it was misguided but by the end it comes full circle. In addition to the film slowing down towards the middle, another thing I wish they would have punched up was the opening. The opening scene is simply a shot of Los Angeles wildfires raging while we hear audio of police radio. After that shot we’re taken straight to the 911 dispatch center.
For a film that is centered around a tense plot, the opening scene needs to be more of a grabber than that. I also think that having some short scenes actually depicting what was happening on the phone would have been nice. The film does a pretty serviceable job building suspense with the audio alone but I still think some short cutaways to what was going on on the other end of the line would have been beneficial in boosting that tense vibe.
The final scene is well done and packs quite a punch. Both Gyllenhaal’s intensely devastating performance and the script’s stern unyielding dialogue work together to create an ending that’s memorable. Just FYI, the ending is very depressing. This is not a story of a 911 dispatcher heroically saving a victim with the film ending on a happy note. This is a much more grim tale.
While watching this, I was reminded of a better film that’s kind of similar, The Call. One might could argue that that film was more stereotypical than this but I was more entertained by it for sure. So while I do admire the ways in which this film tackles police brutality and also mental health, just know that because of that, this isn’t a popcorn thriller.
The Guilty isn’t a 10. There are some script issues and it’s not as entertaining as other films of its type. With all that said, it is a pretty well made film overall. Gyllenhaal’s strong lead performance and the clever plot twists make this new Netflix police drama worth a watch.
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