With Hollywood largely shuttered for most of 2020 due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, it was a disaster for the film industry. Yet, in the midst of that uncertain period, there still existed some creative ways to provide content for avid movie-watchers ("Malcolm & Marie" immediately springs to mind as a great example). "The Guilty" is birthed from that vein, what with it essentially being a one-man show set in a single location (i.e. Easy to film without risk of contagion).
For a very basic overview, "The Guilty" tells the story of Joe (Jake Gyllenhaal), a disgraced street cop now working the emergency phone lines as he awaits his trial. One night, Joe gets a call from a woman (voiced by Riley Keough) who has found herself in a great deal of trouble. In trying to help this woman, viewers are given a glimpse into Joe's personal issues--as well as his redeeming qualities.
Strictly in terms of plot and execution, this is probably more of a 6/10 star effort. It does a lot of things right (especially a game-changing narrative twist about half way through), but is certainly far from classic status. The ending, in particular, left me a bit disappointed (I believe this to be a film that "peaked too early", in a sense).
That being said, there are two standout qualities to "The Guilty" that push it up to 7/10 stars:
-The creativity/inventiveness of the production limitations. I'm always intrigued by smaller films like this that don't require large set pieces or numerous star actors to make them work. Due to the pandemic protocols, this is exactly what had to happen just to get the film made. As a result, it requires all the "little things" (sound, editing, camera work) to be on point, and they are.
-Gyllenhaal's performance. I'm not sure there are too many actors who can pull off the whole "one-man band" thing that Jake is doing here, but he is certainly one of them. His intense and emotional acting style is perfectly suited to this film's needs. For long stretches, his facial expressions and vocal outburst are the only conduit for emotions, and he carries it all with aplomb.
Overall, I don't think that "The Guilty" will show up on many awards or best-of lists. But it was a solid-enough watch, and memorable in the fact that it was produced during one of the most unique times in the history of motion pictures.
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