The Guilty: LFF Film Review

If you want a taut thriller that’s short, intense and whips along at a pace then The Guilty, from Denmark, is for you.

The film stars Asger (Jakob Cedergren), a police officer who has been demoted to the emergency services office while awaiting trial for a crime he allegedly committed on the beat. The night before the trial, while on shift, Asger receives a call from a woman named Iben (voiced by Jessica Dinnage) who says she’s been kidnapped and is currently being taken in a white van, and it becomes a desperate race against time to track her down and save her.

This film is shot in a single location, the emergency services call centre, and Cedergren is basically in every shot. The camera is on him 98% of the time. There are a couple of co-workers who have a few lines, but Asger is the only main character we see – the rest, like Iben, her captor Michael (Johan Olsen) and Asger’s partner Rashid (Omar Shargawi) are only heard on the phone. This focus on one person and one location makes it more thrilling and tense because you know he’s limited by what he can actually do, and you know that the script and direction, by Gustav Moller, is strong because other elements are so stripped back.

The script is minimal but very clever. It is basically all told between Asger’s phone calls with those involved and we get drip fed new information all the time and the full picture begins to come into view. It is gripping stuff. I did call the twist five mins before it happened but it is a really good, game-changing one that makes us re-evaluate everything we’ve seen before.

Cedergren is impressive. To lead a film in such a dominant way, with the camera always on you, is huge. Asger is not the most likeable man, he’s done some bad things, but he is determined to resolve the case, even if that means overstepping his duties.

The Guilty reminded me of a much grittier, realistic version of the 2013 Halle Berry movie The Call, which inevitably does the Hollywood thing of moving the action outside of the office and with the victim. This one is restrained and doesn’t do that which I think is better because it leaves it to your imagination. It is simple but very effective and you’ll be on tenderhooks the whole time.

Seen as part of the 2018 BFI London Film Festival. In selected cinemas Friday 26th October 

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