The Guilty (2018)

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As we learn, police officer Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren) has been transferred to office work as an emergency dispatcher. What promises to be a very boring shift becomes a tense race when he answers a panicked phone call from a kidnapped woman. Since he is in the chancellery and can only use a computer and phone, he is forced to use other people as his eyes and ears, and the gravity of the crime slowly becomes clearer. Asger uses his intuition and skills, but his personal demons slowly begin to work against him…

Before watching this film, I knew nothing about it, except that it is a Danish thriller, which was enough to dedicate the hour and twenty minutes it lasts. It turns out that this intense, low-budget thriller with elements of mystery is practically set in two rooms, the story takes place in real time and we experience it from the perspective of an operator who tries to help a kidnapped woman. The fact that it is set in two rooms is not a limitation but rather a strength of the film itself, because our understanding of the dialogue comes from our skill to build our imaginations of events that are not shown to us on purpose.

The biggest plus of this movie is definitely the fact that we don’t have a visual representation of what’s happening on the other end of the phone. Moller simply did not want the audience to see what was happening in order to better understand or follow the story, and that is precisely why it differs from numerous thrillers with this or similar themes that have already been seen. This lack of direct knowledge is the source of the film’s tension because we do not see what is happening, nor do we know what Asger is going through in those moments, so the imagination is completely left to us.

That imagination would not be possible without the excellently realized sound effects that our protagonist hears. Women’s hushed tones, the screeching of windshield wipers, the rush of traffic, the sounds of rain. We’ll just long for a shot where we can see what the kidnapper’s van looks like. We will join Asger in uncovering the details, trying to understand the motive or trying to determine a way to help her.

In addition to the thriller related to the kidnapping, we get the mystery of Asger’s character, who probably got into an office job as a result of some disciplinary measure, while he is expected to have a court hearing tomorrow. In addition to the mystery of the kidnapped woman and everything that happens related to her, there is also the mystery of what exactly Asger did and what will happen to him after the trial. He’s good at his job, even though it’s not technically his job. Asger is caring and resourceful, but as the story progresses, we realize that he is a bit reckless, that his willingness to help becomes an obsession and that he is ready to bypass the law to get his own.

The camera follows our protagonist all the time, often in extreme close-up, when we simply see how he thinks or the reaction process when he concludes that he has no control over this situation. Since we don’t have a perspective from the other side, we take into account only Asger’s, who has his own way of looking at the world, at people’s reactions and at solving problems. The film takes on a whole new perspective when you ask yourself whether Asger might be wrong, whether something from his past is influencing him and what his true motive is.