“The Guilty” had me on the edge of my seat … er, couch.
Jake Gyllenhaal turns in his best performance since “Nightcrawler” in this one-man show based on the original Danish film of the same name from 2018.
Gyllenhaal is troubled police officer Joe Baylor, working at a desk as a 911 dispatcher. There’s a reason he isn’t out on the street, and this will become clear when you watch the movie.
We know he desperately wants to talk with his little girl, because he calls his wife (Gillian Zenser,) from whom he is separated. We also know he really wants to be out on the street.
The call center requires Joe to refocus when a woman named Emily (beautifully voiced by Riley Keough) calls. Clearly terrified of her husband, who is driving the car in which she is a passenger, Emily says she has been kidnapped.
She clearly is worried about her children. So while Joe desperately tries to send other officers to assist her, he also tries to dispatch officers to stay with her frightened children.
Gyllenhaal turns in a powerful, raw performance as a man who, on the surface, is simply talking into a headset and a cell phone. The conversations reveal a lot about Joe himself, and, eventually, Emily and her relationship with her husband and children.
All the while, the clock is ticking in this taut thriller directed by Antoine Fuqua, who also helmed the remarkable “Training Day.”
Fuqua wisely keeps the running time brief, all the better to mount tension reflected in Gyllenhaal’s eyes, voice and face. This would make a fantastic solo stage performance, and Gyllenhaal would be an incredible draw if he reprised this role.
I love the way the camera gets up close to Joe, to whom the audience draws closer and understands more with each passing minute, right up until a couple of revelations that might make you gasp with surprise.
If you liked “Training Day,” this is the thriller for you.
Rated: R for foul language and disturbing things.
Running time: 90 minutes.
Streaming on Netflix.