Movie Review: THE GUILTY - One-Man Show

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Movie Review: THE GUILTY - Photo credit:, Edition by Amber255 via

2018 is over, and it gave us a lot of great movies. I realized that still have a lot of movies reviews to write, and still some films to watch before I could say something and recommend to others. Today, it's time for THE GUILTY review. IMDb added this movie to the best 50 movies of 2018. So, let's watch and talk why so many viewers name THE GUILTY as one of the best.

Young Danish director Gustav Möller was known on TV until now. In 2015, he created a short movie, and in 2018 he came up with feature movie THE GUILT. The film won the award of the best film in the Baltic debuts' film festival, and in Montclair and Sundance, it won the public prize. In Seattle, THE GUILT got an award of The Golden Space Needle for Best Directing, and in Rotterdam, not only the audience enjoyed this film and gave an award, but also the Youth Jury.

Set in an enclosed room with essentially one actor, and made up entirely of phone conversations, the film employs a full toolbox of cinematic techniques to fashion a complex character study.


THE GUILT is the Danish nominee for Oscars in the category of Best Foreign Language Film.  Time will show if they get Oscar, but such a finale would be not a surprise. Especially in recent times, Scandinavian films among nominees are quite frequent. And this time the potential is there too.

The tense thriller THE GUILTY involve us to the claustrophobic world of reality and imagination and reveals the duality of the reality. This is a notable debut - the film already counts 9 awards and 7 nominations, and that's just the beginning.

THE GUILTY, Trailer - Video credit: MagnoliaPictures via 

The Short Story Of The Movie

Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren) is a suspended police officer now working in an emergency call center. His job is to answer calls, locate caller's location, and send help. This evening is the last time when Asger works in the Help Center; then he can return to his earlier service in the next unit.

Everything goes quiet enough until the emergency center calls a very scarred woman Iben (Jessica Dinnage) who asks for help - a woman is abducted and transported in an unknown direction. Asger must not only try to calm her down but also remain cold-blooded and make the right decisions in this critical situation.

Unexpected breakdown of the phone call forced the searches for the victim and abducted woman - armed only with a phone, Asger decided to liberate a stranger woman. The man quickly realizes that the matter is more complicated than it seemed. He works with all available methods to help a person who is in trouble, and he has not too many of them.


Jakob Cedergren in THE GUILTY - Photo credit:

The Content Of The Movie

The sound in the movies is perhaps even more important than the picture. One can agree or disagree with this view, but THE GUILT is the case when it is enough to listen to the movie - all the intrigue, tension, twists and turns of the storyline, even revealing the main character is going through telephone conversations. In this case, the picture tells a little - we see 99 percent a single character, Asger Holm's face on the screen in a big plan.

Something familiar? Yes, by its principle and structure, and even duration, THE GUILT is completely analogous to 2013 movie Locke with Tom Hardy, created by British director Steven Knight. However, similarities - basically the only actor in a non-changing limited space - responds to many phone calls that change the situation here and there. But THE GUILT works a little differently. Neither the main character Asger Holm nor the spectators know the real situation - the image is slowly moving, and sometimes drastically changes after one or another call, after Asger gets significant details. 

That's why we feel nervous together with Asger, and worry, and chew the lips, and get rid of despair, and gasp of surprise. Another important difference is that the decisions taken by Asger directly depend on the fate of the woman who asks for the help and the people related to her. 


Crime thriler THE GUILTY - Photo credit:

Yes, the plot seems far from new and certainly not original but only at the beginning. In the process of development, it forces the viewer to hold his breath as it has very original development. Scandinavian cinematography, unlike the more familiar Hollywood products, is not very spectacular but surpasses the latter in its psychology.  It is stricter, tougher, and more sincere. Without any pathos, Danish film is much more honest and frank.

But there is also something the main character knows, but the audience is not aware of it - it's his past. It also gradually unfolds through telephone calls. We can discuss the necessity of this - on the one hand, it seems somewhat stretched, on the other hand, it shows the non-senseless robot - an official, who does not deviate from the instructions but the man whose human nature foresees the possibility of mistake. 

The mistake of the past, for which Asger wears up the guilt so far, presupposes that now, at the moment of the film, his decisions can also be wrong, even though they come from good intentions.

The ending is gorgeous: despite the good outcome, you understand that it is bad. There is a feeling of regret and compassion.

By the way, why does the film have such a name? Who is here guilty? It appeared that the protagonist himself is one who was guilty. Why does he think so? I propose to watch this interesting thriller, and you will understand this.


Danish film THE GUILTY - Photo credit:

Is It Right To Make Decisions Not According To The Rules?

One of the eternal questions in the theory of law is: is the lawful behavior always correct and vice versa - can the limits set by the rules be exceeded if our perceived justice demands it?

The Nuremberg trials and the philosopher Hannah Arendt's theory of evil banality answered the first question. The second is a bit more complicated. And watching such a movie about the help center operator's job, I remember at least some of the notorious cases in my country when the officers executed all instructions properly, but the life of the man was not saved. Even more, the public's outrage still raises the fact that in such cases priority is given to the blind observance of the rules and not to the life of the person in misfortune.

THE GUILTY shows how a person perceives the world. Whatever sympathy would cause Asger's heroism, the police officer neglected his powers and arbitrarily extended his rights, deciding the fate of other people. At least a few times he does not behave by the rules, exceeds his powers, behaves inappropriately, violates an official's ethics, asks a colleague to act outside the service and without a court order.

In keeping with the strictly legal approach, such behavior is illegal, but if all this is for a noble purpose? And this is already space for later reflection.


Jakob Cedergren, THE GUILTY - Photo credit:

The Roles Of The Movie

Asger Holm is a character with his skeleton. Cedergren's Asger shows a rather broad range of emotions - you should not forget that the character is squeezed in the official uniform and in the frame of the official policemen's communication. However, his drama is real and convincing. 

We quickly realize that he, accustomed to serving on the street, does not like to do such duties too much, especially since most of the calls come in on void occasions. It is more difficult not to violate the prescribed bureaucratic rules. He is not of those officers who are content with the formal observance of laws and internal instructions.


Crime thriler THE GUILTY - Photo credit:

Asger instantly assesses the situation, realizing that a woman who speaks with vague hints needs emergency help. The other officer would limit himself by conveying the information to the dispatcher who oversees that district and would calmed down. The end of the shift is nearing; a few more minutes - and this will be the headache of another employee. But Holm is not like that. A man does not simply use the official channels to the maximum but also appeals to his familiar people with personal requests. Moreover, he incites the comrade to an official offense (penetration into a dwelling), not without reason believing that the delay is alike the death.

The hero, broken and lowered at the beginning, gained confidence by his later actions. And the reason for this state catches him for a long time because he wants to redeem the sin. THE GUILTY is a good example of how uncontrollable power leads to mistakes and regret.

In fact, using the example of Asger Holm, one can see that the dispatchers must have a stable psyche and an incredible degree of restraint because they cannot be rude to anyone who got on the line. People are different, and those whose profession relates to communication must adjust to each of their interlocutors. Holm does it well, especially considering that he has to answer calls from not quite adequate people.


Danish film THE GUILTY - Photo credit:

The Technical Side Of The Movie

When it comes to the technical side, I want the most distinguish the sound editing - here it is very important because, in this film, it is not the picture but the sound reigns. Not watching what's happening on the screen, and listening to Asger's telephone conversations, we're trying to understand Copenhagen's story on a rainy night in our minds.

Everything sounds harmonious, atmospheric and catchy. Literally, each soundtrack touches the strings of the soul with its own special feel. Strangely enough, they seemed the same, but at the same time completely different. Especially I remember the soundtrack, which sounded at the finale titers. It is so atmospheric that only because of this soundtrack it is worth watching the titers to the end.

The operator work was very powerful and flawless.

And there is no more what to talk about, as the action of this movie is going only in a very little space, and one actor made almost all action.  

THE GUILTY, interview - Video credit: Park City Television via

The Collective Work Of The Actors

Here one can talk about a single actor - Jacob Cedergren. In essence, THE GUILTY is a film of one actor. All events of the film take place in the room of the calls' reception by the emergency police of Copenhagen. But the actor is bright, talented, and original beyond any doubt. The other actors who play Asger's colleagues are just episodic. And we hear only the voices of some of the other actors.

Going back to Cedergren, his performance is remarkable and convincing. The only thing I never understand and probably will not understand never is the depiction of an anger attack when a character crashes all the things around. But it's not the problem of this actor, and not even of this movie - just the rage in cinema is usually displayed in such way very often, though not convincing at all. 


Best 50 movies of 2018: THE GUILTY - Photo credit:

The game of the main character is catchy, and will not leave indifferent any spectator.

 What is the plus of films, wherein the frame almost always one main character, and the place is strictly limited by the spatial framework? The fact that without being able to see the changing events, you begin to carefully look at the character and the actor who plays him. You evaluate facial expressions, gestures, behavior, way of conducting a dialogue with different people, changing his moods depending on what he heard or seen.

In short, the whole palette of human feelings and emotions is available for viewing, and from this follows the opportunity to evaluate the play of an actor or actress. When you are the only one - the responsibility for the success of the film increases many times, which means the actor needs to get used to his role and perform adequately in such unique cinematic production!


 Gustav Möller's film THE GUILTY - Photo

On The Final Note

THE GUILT is an excellent example of a minimalist film that once again proves and confirms that quality and fun are not necessarily due to huge budgets, breathtaking special effects, or faces of prominent actors.

Although Gustav Möller's film as debut basically follows three poles: a strong scenario, convincing Jakob Cedergren's acting, and a great sound-editing - the film captures from the intrigue's start and forced together with the main character to survive a long night-time drama. And unexpected twists will make you gasp a few times completely naturally.

Respect for the Danes for a great psychological thriller! At the film preview, you once again make sure that there is still nothing more interesting than a person - a person who finds himself in a difficult life situation and is busy with overcoming genuine and not contrived difficulties.


Best 50 movies of 2018: THE GUILTY - Photo credit: 

So if you miss a good psychological thriller with unexpected twists - you can't miss this movie.

This film is a masterpiece. This film, which takes place only in one place, does not become boring, but on the contrary becomes more interesting.


My rating: 9.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 99/ 100
Metacritic: 83/100
Critics average: 9.0/10
IMDb: 7.6/10


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