Serving as the Danish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 91st Academy Awards, The Guilty is a thrilling drama that takes place entirely inside an emergency call center. The plot follows phone operator, Asger Holmes (Jakob Cedergren), who receives a distress call from a woman named Iben (Jessica Dinnage) who appears to have been kidnapped by her ex-husband, leaving her two young children alone at home. With limited resources at his disposal, Asger tries to locate Iben before the situation turns deadly. However, things may not be as they appear from Asger’s end of the line.
Dead Ringer: The stakes that are proposed in The Guilty are cleverly established at the start of the film, right when Asger receives Iben’s cryptic phone call, testing his ability to critically think and whether he should push the boundaries of the law enforcement before he gets too swept up in this case. While he is flawed, Asger is presented as a notable character wanting to do good not because it’s his job to help people, but because he feels truly invested and responsible for the welfare of this woman he hasn’t even met. Since he is onscreen in almost every frame of the film, he becomes the source of the audience’s interest in the story, and his true character makes it all the more engaging to watch
Missed Connection: The most unique aspect of The Guilty is that the entire film takes place inside of the emergency call center, even though all of the action takes place off-screen. The events unfold in real time from the moment that Asger answers Iben’s call to the pulse-racing climax of the film. This provides a sense of realism and makes the circumstances of the narrative even more terrifying, as the audience gets no visual feedback and can only infer what is really happening through the phone conversations between Asger and other officers. This is a true testament to the notion of “less is more.”
The Guilty is a subdued thriller that deviates from the norm but still treats the audience with suspense in the most refreshing way.