The Guilty




A Danish thriller of some merit that prompts an unexpected comparison with a masterpiece.


 The Guilty

Jakob Cedergren


Gustav Möller who is both director and co-writer carries off with élan this feature debut that is set in Copenhagen and features a policeman named Asger Holm who is throughout on telephone duty during a night shift in Emergency Services. As a thriller close in character to a police procedural, this Danish film works well. At the same time, it is overshadowed by a masterpiece, that being the film which in 2013 gave Tom Hardy what remains his greatest role to date, Locke.


In some respects, The Guilty is a very different film from Locke. Having established how Holm functions when on this particular duty, it quickly leads into the call for help that will provide the central plot here. It comes from a woman named Iben who is in a car with a man. She makes the call pretending to be telephoning her young daughter and this deceit enables her to indicate in answer to questions that she has been abducted and is in danger. That situation and how it is dealt with as Holm and his colleagues attempt to trace the car and establish the identities of those involved define the nature of the tale being told.


It is how it is being told that first prompts thoughts of Locke. In Steven Knight's moral drama Tom Hardy's character, Locke, is the only person on screen and all of the other characters are heard (but not seen) over a car telephone. Here, we do glimpse (but only just) those who share the communications room with Holm   but those he contacts and those he is trying to help are all unseen being at the end of a telephone. Regardless of The Guilty belonging to a different genre, that is enough to encourage the comparison, but other factors too evoke thoughts of Locke. In each case the protagonist has a personal dilemma to face which is hinted at early on but only gradually comes fully into focus and both films feature a central character who has a personal crisis to confront on the day after the action takes place.


These parallels lead one to recognise that Locke is the deeper work and the one that seems more real: The Guilty which comes to turn on a plot twist is effective but more contrived. It certainly works well as a suspense piece and, if he is less exceptional than Hardy who had more to work on, Jakob Cedergren holds the screen very well indeed. The absence of a music score add to the sense of authenticity in the portrayal of Emergency Services and for a first feature this finds Möller to be possessed of a very sure touch (he is also a director very much at ease with the 'Scope format). Another virtue is the refusal (except for an unnecessary shot or two at the end) to overextend the material: 85 minutes is just about right. On its own terms, The Guilty functions admirably.


Original title: Den skyldige.




Cast: Jakob Cedergren, and the voices of Jessica Dinnage, Omar Shargawi, Johan Olsen, Jacob Lohmann, Katinka Evers-Jahnsen.


Dir Gustav Möller, Pro Lina Flint, Screenplay Gustav Möller and Emil Nygaard Albertsen, Ph Jasper Spanning, Pro Des Gustav Pontoppidan, Ed Carla Luffe Hientzelmann, Costumes Ida Skov Girdmundsen-Holmgren.


Nordisk Film/SPRING production/Nordisk Film Production-Signature Entertainment.
85 mins. Denmark. 2017. Rel: 26 October 2018. Cert. 15.