Mar 29, 2019
It’s Friday, so you know what that means! Andrew Campbell is back with another Fantastic Fest feature film, which also scores exceptionally well at Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. And as promised, he’s here to give us “give the 411 on this 911 story”. Like I’d forget that little gem! For a few other films from the Danish film scene, check out “Häxan” (Episode #131), “Borg vs McEnroe” (Episode #231), Keith’s review for “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” (Episode #452), and Andrew’s previous review for “In Order of Disappearance” (Episode #390). And if you have any suggestions, let us know at onemoviepunch.com or reach out over social media.
Take it away, Andrew!
Hello film fans-
Andrew here - back this week with a low-key, single-setting slow-burn critical darling out of Denmark that just hit Hulu with zero fanfare. Not knowing much about Danish cinema, I pulled up a list of the top 20 Danish films of all time. Unsurprisingly, I had heard of (but never seen) just two of the movies. Even less of a surprise: Mads Mikkelsen, the only Danish actor I’m aware of, played a role in five of the films. Mads has been prolific of late with his film “Polar” hitting Netflix just one week before he hit theaters with “Arctic”. No definitive word yet whether he’s been cast in the “Frozen” sequel. What does all this have to do with today’s film? Not a darn thing, I’m just now climbing out of the Wikihole to say...
Without further ado, today’s movie is “The Guilty”, co-written and directed by Gustav Möller. “The Guilty” made its Austin debut at Fantastic Fest. If memory serves, this film and one other were last-minute additions that were already making the festival circuit and thus it was not a high-profile premiere. The ultra-low-budget film pulled in just over $3M internationally but has already been set up for an American remake with Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead role.
The film stars Jakob Cedergren (a skinnier, Danishier John Cena lookalike) as Asger Holm, a police officer under disciplinary review operating a phone in an emergency call center. The camera never leaves that setting and Asger is on screen nearly every minute of the film’s brief runtime. Though not quite taking place in real time, the film revolves around a mysterious incoming call from a kidnapped woman. Asger attempts to rescue the woman, whom we never see, using his available resources while we learn more about why Asger has been place on desk duty.
If the concept of a film centered around a 911 operator sounds familiar, you may be thinking of 2013’s “The Call”, starring Halle Berry. It was good popcorn entertainment, but ultimately forgettable. Here, director Möller starts with a similar protagonist, who is going through some mental anguish of his own, while dealing with a tense call that goes well beyond his normal duties. Möller has written a twisty, suspenseful script and given himself the lofty challenge of telling the entire story without ever showing us what’s happening on the other end of the phone. The direction is excellent with camera angles shifting and zooming at the right moments to keep the viewer engaged despite the limited options.
Jakob Cedergren turns in a solid performance as the nuanced Asger Holm. Holm is shown as short-tempered and unsympathetic during a couple unnecessary emergency calls at the beginning of the film. He’s brusque with his coworkers and conflicts with his manager. In spite of how abrasive he comes off, you can slowly discern the man underneath who is ultimately good-intentioned, and the character grows on you in an organic way. This is certainly important, because in the end the films plays as a character study of this one individual.
What makes “The Guilty” fantastic?
It’s a simple idea that turns on two or three wild plot twists and does not overstay its welcome. The near-perfect Rotten Tomatoes score is slightly deceiving, in that this film probably won’t make your top 10 of the year you watch it and maybe not even your top 50.(Wait- how many movies do normal humans watch in a year?) There’s really nothing here to dislike so you would be hard-pressed to find anyone that would give it a negative review, but it’s not going to blow you away.
“The Guilty” (2018) is clever work of suspense that keeps you guessing while requiring patience to navigate the subtle visuals and subtitles. Fans of “The Call” or screen-life films such as “Unfriended” or the incredible 2018 film “Searching” (One Movie Punch Episode #246) will enjoy this one.
Rotten Tomatoes: 99% (CERTIFIED FRESH)
Metacritic: 83 (MUST SEE)
One Movie Punch: 7.4/10
“The Guilty” is rated R and is currently streaming on Hulu.
Come back April 19th. I’ll be reviewing Gaspar Noé’s “Climax”. Spring Break is upon us and nothing says party like a group of French dancers tripping out on LSD in a film by an auteur director known mostly for his dripping visuals and desire to shock his audience. See you then.