A simple concept turned into something special through immaculate execution. The idea of itself is nothing new and has formed the basis of a few films and a couple of bottle episodes on TV over the years, but never have we seen it so perfectly proficient. The Guilty rests on a phenomenal central performance by Jakob Cedergren , one central location, and a script so tight that Houdini couldn’t wriggle free of it.
A competent police officer fulfilling a task which he feels is obviously below his ability Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren ) counts through the minutes till the end of his shift on the emergency call desk. Sick of fielding calls from drug addicts, and people who have been mugged while curb crawling, Asger’s routine is thrown into confusion when he receives a call from a woman who has been abducted.
That’s it. One location, real time (or damn near), focusing on one central character on a number of phone calls… and the result is one of the tensest films of the year. We are never transported to a police car chase, or see from the victim’s perspective, or break from the phone room as Asger personally gives chase. Everything takes place in that phone room (and an adjoining office), and conveyed through the power of the actors’ voice. Yet in an hour and a half, we are taken on a wild ride, learning about Asger through a precisely measured drip feed of information, as we’re immersed in the tension of the kidnapping. It is perfect dramaturgy, yet the power of director Gustav Möller subtle cinematic eye, enhancing the environment but never breaking from the realistic immersion, elevate it for the cinema screen.
The central facet of this gem is Jacob Cedergren. The dynamic change in character, the journey that he goes through, the helplessness he feels and the emotional impact of events are all self evident. He drags the audience through this voyage, holding their rapt attention through the course of the film. Given the sparse set up, it really is no mean feat, but Cedergren accomplishes this with skill and grace. By the end scene, both actor and audience are wrung out, drained from the experience.
If you have a perchance for Nordic Noir, The Guilty delivers in one of the tightest, most compact fashions you have ever seen. Möller proves that a simple premiss and immaculate execution can deliver more than thousands of hours of computer farmed special effects. Definitely one to place on speed dial.