“The Guilty” Movie Review

Story posted October 4, 2021 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Madison Imber

Is it ever okay for emotions to outweigh professionalism in the line of duty? “The Guilty” revolves around a 911 dispatcher going to the greatest lengths to rescue a potentially kidnapped woman while battling his own demons.

Directed and produced by Antoine Fuqua, this crime thriller film is a remake of the 2018 Danish film of the same name. Joe Baylor, played by critically acclaimed actor Jake Gyllenhaal, is a 911 dispatcher that answers a call late at night of a frantically crying woman named Emily whom he believes is kidnapped by her ex-husband, Henry.

He’s forced to put the pieces together of what is occurring by going to extreme lengths to ensure her safety, even if it means overstepping his professional boundaries while blindly following his own emotions.

The film takes a dark turn when Joe calls Emily’s home number and speaks with her 6-year-old daughter, Abby. She tells Joe that her mom has been taken, provoking him to send someone to check on her and her baby brother, Oliver. Motivated by his own struggles with seeing his own daughter, Joe begs California Highway Patrol (CHP) to dispatch an officer, leading to the discovery of Oliver mortally wounded.

The discovery of the injured son escalates the case and fuels Joe’s passion for ensuring the safety of Abby and bringing Henry to justice for murdering his son.

Throughout the film, the overall mood drastically shifts from a casual day in the office to one of the most intense days of Joe’s life. The director utilized several cinematic techniques to build suspense for the audience while also advancing the plot, including a progressive change in lighting and zoomed-in camera angles.

During the most eventful and suspense-filled scenes, the camera is extremely close to Joe’s face, focusing the audience purely on his stress while connecting them to his disconnected position as a dispatcher. Additionally, the director strategically made Joe’s surroundings darker in light as the film progressed, reflecting the entire debacle.

To further this immersion, the entire film’s setting is in Joe’s office. The audience therefore feels a stronger connection to Joe while simultaneously imagining Emily’s conflict on their own. The way in which “The Guilty” was filmed allowed the audience to empathize with Joe and experience the helplessness he consistently faced.

The story does a fantastic job of touching upon important themes, including gender stereotypes, mental health awareness and professionalism in the workplace. Joe struggles with his own emotional difficulties in trying to save Emily and her daughter, reminding him of his own efforts to see his daughter after his separation from his wife.

Throughout the film, he holds his inhaler in his hand, even while on the phone, emphasizing his rising anxiety and anger towards the situation. He became extremely heated towards Henry on one of the phone calls, showcasing his temper and unprofessionalism.

One of the problems with “The Guilty” was that it started off with a slower development of the story. The audience isn’t fully aware of the main conflict of the film right away. However, this is quickly overshadowed by the sudden intensity of the main plot and immediately hooks the audience into the action.

The ability for the audience to use their imagination and creativity when picturing the events occurring established the thrill of Joe’s situation, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats.

Overall, this film is a perfect choice for someone that is looking for a great crime thriller. Not only does the film tell a remarkable story of a 911 dispatcher’s transformative night, but it also evokes a strong emotional response from those who watch it.

What is most impressive is its uniqueness in its genre and in its ability to completely immerse the audience in the story.

“The Guilty” is an admirable and creative film that keeps the audience engaged from start to finish. Fuqua takes a predicable plot and completely flips it on its head.

Rating: 3/5 stars


Madison Imber is a second-year majoring in public relations. To contact her, email mbi5065@psu.edu.