TIFF ’21 ‘The Guilty’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Antoine Fuqua’s The Guilty has him reuniting with Jake Gyllenhaal in a tension-filled situational thriller. As a wildfire rages towards Los Angeles, after getting demoted ahead of his disciplinary hearing, police officer Joe Bayler (Jake Gyllenhaal) is winding down from a chaotic but tedious shift answering emergency calls. His evening is soon interrupted by a cryptic call from a woman (Riley Keough) who appears to be attempting to call her child, but is in fact discreetly reporting her own abduction. Fuqua addresses mental health from a different perspective. We see that Baylor is asthmatic and has anxiety of his own, causing him to snap when he can’t take it anymore.

What Fuqua does so well is place you in the room as close as possible to Bayler. When he’s on the phone, answering these emergency calls, the camera is placed in the computer in front of him. You are up close and personal with the character, as you watch Bayler, frantically fill out the information. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a captivating performance as Bayler and he keeps you invested in the story. Piece by piece, Bayler’s detective skills and his determination to help this woman, shine through. As the film goes on, the web of clues begins to get jumbled, and Bayler has hit his wits end in trying to figure this out.

For any parents who plan on watching this film, the story just gets more complicated and darker because it involves children. It can be difficult at times to listen to the conversations on the phone and Fuqua sets up the rising tension with each call so well. There are some silent moments from Bayler, as he thinks about his next move. But the consistency of the phone calls, and the flow of the conversations, will have you glued to your screen. Bayler is full of surprises and when he snaps, he snaps. Ultimately making this one of my favourite Jake Gyllenhaal performances.

The Guilty is a pulse-pounding, self-contained action thriller that will make you want to hug your family right after. The way this story unfolds is brutal in the way Fuqua addresses mental illness. Each conversation adds to the story and it is structured so well because of it. The way Gyllenhaal showed his range throughout the film combined with Fuqua’s careful direction makes this movie an entertaining one to watch. We learn more about the emergency call centre and what one night can entail for those workers.

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