Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), The Guilty takes place during the raging wildfires of Los Angeles. As his nightshift at the 911 desk winds down, frustrated and exhausted police officer Joe Bayler (Jake Gyllenhaal) gets a perilous phone call from a young woman (Riley Keough) who appears to be calling her child. Though he must get up early in the morning for a trial of his own misconduct, Joe ascertains that the young woman has been abducted and attempts to piece together her whereabouts from her cryptic clues. However, as the crime begins to unravel, Joe’s own inner demons begin to surface, blurring the lines between justice and vengeance.
In The Guilty, Antoine Fuqua delivers his signature intensity in a film the demands attention. Taking place entirely in the office of 911 dispatch, it is very difficult to maintain interest over the course of a full runtime in one location (and especially when the protagonist is spending the entire length of the film on the phone. Nevertheless, The Guilty somehow makes it work. Anchored by a solid script and the strength of its lead, The Guilty may be one of the best examples of the genre. It simply grabs you from the opening scene and never truly let’s go.
However, what makes gives The Guilty its power is it subtext. Bold and gripping, The Guilty is a film that needs to be experienced. With skill and substance, Fuqua takes a genre that rarely works and delivers an entertaining and thrilling film that keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat. Even so, the real value of the film is its question of valor which resonates deeply with the questions of police accountability today. While Joe may be a man who wants to not be Guilty, it’s also clear that he’s far from innocent as well.
The Guilty premiered at TIFF ’21 on Friday, September 10th, 2021.