As the film opens up, we hear a phone ringing. We see a man put on a headphone set to answer the phone. We learn that he is working in the Emergency Services phone bank. A man on the other end of the phone call pleads for help but won’t give out his location. The police officer keeps trying to get the man to give out his location, but he refuses to. We learn through the police officer’s questioning that the man has taken drugs but still won’t give out his location. The police officer gets frustrated that the man won’t tell him the location and it is apparent that the police officer isn’t very sympathetic to the man’s problems. The man who has called gets agitated and hangs up. We learn that the police officer is named Asger (Jakob Cedergren) when he answers his cell phone. The phone call is from a reporter that wants to ask questions about some sort of hearing that Asger is having to appear at. Asger won’t answer any questions and hangs up. Asger gets chastised by another officer for talking on his personal phone.
Asger quickly gets another phone call, this time from a man that says he has been mugged. Asger quickly determines that the man is in the ‘red light’ district and has been robbed by a prostitute. Asger gets the man’s license plate and make of the car, gets a description of the prostitute and then requests a police car to go to the man’s location. When requesting the police car, Asger realizes that he is talking to his boss. It is evident that Anger is doing the Emergency Services calls because he is on some sort of restriction due to some kind of trouble that Asger has gotten into. His boss tells him that everything will work out tomorrow at his hearing. Asger talks to his boss about a big raid that happened last week, and we can tell that Asger misses his work on the streets. Asger also asks how his partner is. Asger hangs up with his boss and sits, contemplating his life. Asger is in such deep thoughts he doesn’t hear the phone ringing and has to be told by another officer to answer the phone.
Asger answers the phone and at first doesn’t get a response. He sees from caller ID that the person calling is a woman named Iben. Iben finally responds as if she is talking to her child. Iben won’t answer Asger directly but keeps on talking like she is communicating with her child. Asger almost hangs up on her, thinking that she has been drinking. On a hunch, Asger stays on the line with the woman and determines through a series of questions that she has been taken by a man against her will. For the next hour, Anser will try to locate the woman and get the police to her in time.
‘The Guilty’ (original title is ‘Den skyldig’) is a tension-filled film that takes place solely at the Emergency Services phone center brought to us by first-time feature filmmaker Gustav Möller. In this taut thriller, we watch as Asger slowly figures out what is happening to Iben and where to find her. It’s a fascinating film that builds tension throughout the movie even though we never leave the phone center. Möller has created a character in Asger of a man who is troubled by whatever he has done in the past but is willing to do almost anything to save Iben. The plot is well conceived and has a ton of twists and turns in it to keep you interested.
The film is full of close-ups on Cedergren, and he gives us a brilliant performance of the tightly wound Asger. We see through his face and his actions on how much he enjoys police work and just how good he is at it. It’s a dominant performance, and with a lesser actor, the film would suffer since Anger is on screen the whole time.
I loved the editing of the film by Caria Luffe as the film deftly moves between all the phone calls that Asger makes to try and figure out where Iben is. Combined with the stress-filled script and a dynamic performance by Cedergren, you can see why ‘The Guilty’ is Denmark’s entry for the Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.
My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again
Mike’s movie rating system from best to worst:
1). I Would Pay to See it Again
2). Full Price
3). Bargain Matinee
5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again