Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Movie with Abe: The Guilty

Jakob Cedergren in THE GUILTY, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

The Guilty
Directed by Gustav Möller
Released October 19, 2018

The person answering the emergency police line is the first point of contact for someone in distress. In film and television, procedure is usually stressed most, as whoever answers tries to get crucial information to be able to send help to the caller on the other end of the line. It’s not the job of the operator to see the entire case through, and there’s even an action procedural series on FOX dedicated to beginning each episode with the fateful call. This Danish film begins at a similar point but stays only with the operator for the duration of the film.

Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren) has been assigned to desk duty in the wake of an investigation, culminating in a trial scheduled for the next day. Fielding emergency calls, Asger follows the script and passes each message along to the appropriate department. When a woman, Iben (Jessica Dinnage), calls and indicates that she has been abducted, the line is disconnected once Asger is sure that she is telling the truth and is under duress. Desperate to find her, Asger pushes to reconnect with her and do anything he can to locate her, seeming all too willing to disregard protocol and even the law to ensure the safety of a woman he has never met.

This film takes place entirely in the call center at the police station, with Asger interacting with a few colleagues around him, but otherwise sitting, or sometimes pacing, with his headset while on the phone with off-screen voices. The fact that the action can remain compelling when it’s seen from only one side for a duration of eighty-five minutes is impressive, and it helps to intensify the tension by trapping audience members with Asger, who wants nothing more than to be out in the field knocking down doors instead of coordinating from a computer screen.

Director Gustav Möller makes a noteworthy debut for what can best be described as a tight thriller that unfolds subtly as Asger learns more about what he’s gotten himself into and how much more complicated it is than in initially seems. Cedergren delivers a focused performance, conveying his impatience and frustration with the situation and showing just how dedicated he is to executing his job the way he sees fit. Denmark’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Film, which made the nine-wide shortlist of contenders for the award, manages to feel like a more populated ensemble film while really only showing one central character on screen, an accomplishment in itself.


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