The Guilty (2021): Cinema at its Finest


Jay A., Reporter

Antoine Fuqua’s The Guilty, based on the 2018 Danish version, qualifies for the label “masterpiece.” The claustrophobic thriller follows disgraced police officer Joe Baylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) on an emotional journal through 911 calls. Despite the film’s lack of other Hollywood icons, the cast performed exceptionally. In this edition, I want to tell you about this film that kept me awake at night. Welcome, my fellow cinema buffs, to the Kol BT review of The Guilty (2021).

Right off the bat, we must discuss Jake Gyllenhaal. You may know him from films like Zodiac, Jarhead, Spider-Man: Far from Home, and Brokeback Mountain. Gyllenhaal is one of my personal favorite actors largely for his commitment to his characters. I think his performances in Jarhead and The Guilty (2021) show the measures he takes to ensure audience enthrallment. The star of this film has the camera on him at all times. I would not penalize any actor for failing to meet the standards this movie demanded; it still would have been a fantastic film. Yet I don’t remember Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Joe Baylor breaking once. He took everything from his performance in Zodiac and tripled it. This was an emotionally draining film, clearly taking a toll on both Gyllenhaal and Baylor. Quite honestly, I don’t think Leonardo DiCaprio would have done better.

Now, let’s discuss the other cast members. I know you’ve probably never heard of any of them, but their performances deserve mention. Gillian Zinser played Joe’s ex-wife Jess very well. Eli Goree did phenomenally as Rick, Joe’s most trusted friend in the police force. Peter Sarsgaard had one of the most important roles in the film as Henry Fisher, accused of kidnapping his ex-wife Emily, and delivered. And best of all, Riley Keough masterfully embodied the kidnapped Emily Lighton. Keep in mind most of these actors only appeared in phone calls while the camera was on Gyllenhaal. With body language contributing significantly to acting in my opinion, these low-rate actors did exceptional jobs using only their voices.

In addition to the acting, the dialogue in this dialogue-heavy film did not disappoint. The Guilty (2021) somehow combines predictability and shock for a truly heart-wrenching experience. I don’t think any other film has done that to me. Also, despite having heavy themes of these concepts, the dialogue never says “suicide” or “incompetence,” and almost never says “murder.”

What happens when you combine the genius of Jake Gyllenhaal, amazing low-rate actors, and an insanely good writer and director? You get a masterpiece.

Before anyone says it, I know this movie was adapted from a 2018 Danish version, I saw it, and despite nearly unanimous contradiction, I still hold that the Gyllenhaal version is better.

As always, I sent out a poll for my audience to voice their opinions too. The Guilty (2021) scored a 100% from four responses on the Stale Latkes meter! Thanks to all who participated.

Okay, I’m done nerding out about movies for now. If you enjoyed this review, feel free to let me know and include suggestions for a future review if you do. As always, I’ll catch you later at AMC, overpriced Cokes are on me. Peace.