Joe occupies a critical position if there is one: he is a dispatcher in the 911 emergency service. However, he does not have the head to work. In fact, this is only a temporary assignment: Basically, Joe is a police officer. Accused of the murder of a 19-year-old young man in the line of duty, Joe must testify the next day. Now, here he receives a call from a woman addressing him as to a child. Quickly, Joe understands that his interlocutor is thus trying to fool his kidnapper. Remake from a Danish film, The Guilty (Without appeal) is practically a one-man-showcelui de Jake Gyllenhaal.
The actor, and here producer, himself acquired the rights to adapt Gustav Möller’s film. This new version is faithful to the original. An ingenious addition is on the other hand made by the intervention of forest fires which ravage the surroundings of Los Angeles, scene from now on of the action.
An action, once past the opening sequence precisely presenting the City of Angels like an infernal blaze, confined to the premises of the emergency service. In this impersonal and almost monochrome environment, we move with Joe and we remain at all times tied to his point of view. Of the other characters with whom he interacts, only the voices are heard, with the exception of two immediate colleagues.
Tension arises, and then grows, from two sources: the stress that Joe is experiencing about his impending trial, and then his initial inability to come to the aid of the woman whose abductor is traveling in a van.
To this are added aggravating factors, such as the fires already mentioned which monopolize the authorities, as well as the marital and parental situation of Joe, who cannot contact his ex, but does not deprive himself of it.
Undoubtedly intended to give more complexity to the protagonist, this whole aspect appears to be plated. Worse, the dramatic context is already so loaded that not only are these passages superfluous, but they reduce the suspense in favor of what boils down to easy sentimental aside.
Adapted by Nic Pizzolatto (creator of the series True Detective), the script retains the main twists and turns of the story, except for one tragic detail, the content of which will be kept silent. This means that the same improbabilities are observable, including the intimate way in which Joe comes to interact with the kidnapped woman.
Far from lulling this disbelief that creeps in here and there, the hypersentious interpretation of Jake Gyllenhaal reinforces it, on the contrary. It is that here, the talented star of Brokeback Mountain (Souvenirs de Brokeback Mountain, d’Ang Lee, 2005), de Zodiac (The Zodiac, by David Fincher, 2007) and Prisoners (Prisoners, by Denis Villeneuve, 2013) sometimes reaches the maximum intensity level too early and stays there too long. “Oscar for best actor, here I am!” »His performance then seems to scream.
In short, combined with the content of certain situations, these paroxysmal moments of play take moviegoers out of the film instead of keeping them immersed in it.
In need of expressiveness
Realization doesn’t help. Used to stage large productions fertile in explosions, shootings and stunts, like Training Day (Training day, 2001), Shooter (Sniper, 2007), The Equalizer (The justiciary, 2014) and his sequel, Antoine Fuqua struggles to find his marks in what is essentially a closed door.
Everything he is used to showing here is only suggested: a beautiful challenge to which Fuqua sticks without much imagination. For example, the veteran director never tries to give some expressiveness to the angles, to the lighting, to the bluish gray decorations (yes, with occasional spots of red which point: symbol, symbol).
It’s as if everything is just a neutral canvas on which to film a glut of close-ups of the star. The comparison is extreme, but useful: even when he built his production around close-ups of Renée Falconetti for his Passion of Joan of Arc, Dreyer took care to stylize the art direction, making it expressive.
In this case, The Guilty does not prove to be particularly stimulating for the eye, in addition to keeping in suspense only intermittently.