The thriller genre film can take many forms but it usually involves a mystery, revelations and compelling characters. The idea is to thrill the audience whether there is a good or bad outcome for the characters and if the plot resembles a rollercoaster rather than a straight line. Gustav Möller’s The Guilty is a thriller that includes all the key elements to a thriller but achieves this with just one man on the phone on screen the entire time.
Former Police Officer Asger Holm is working as an Alarm dispatcher, answering emergency calls and putting them through the right service. Towards the end of his shift he takes a call from a woman who has been kidnapped but is disconnected. Asger then takes it upon himself to do everything he can to help the woman all from his desk and phone.
The Guilty joins the ranks of the feature length thrillers with one predominant character, usually on the phone and on screen the entire time. Films such as Sorry Wrong Number about a bed ridden woman who slowly discovers that she is about to be murdered and Locke about a man driving from Birmingham to London taking calls from family and the woman he had an affair with. The Guilty is very different from these other films, in that Asger is on screen the entire time we the audience are only given snippets of his life, until the last phone call. Disconnecting from the only main character on screen doesn’t distance us from what is happening but instead makes us feel more invested in the final outcome as each phone call unravels what is really going on.
With only voices on the other end of the phone and hints at what has brought Asger to be in this position, doesn’t make the situation anyone is in less thrilling. Where a dropped call could mean life and death, the call centre ca be high stakes. With limited space and angles, the suspense and tension is heightened by the lack of sound, the quiet after a call and Asger’s reactions may seem like minor incidents but to this intimate story, with plenty of close ups, its as if we are Asger going through the same exasperating journey.
Its obvious as to why this was in the running to be short listed for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Oscars but it is also clear why it was not. This is not a film making a statement or trying to be something larger than it is. It’s a story about a man on the phone and its one of the most thrilling films of last year.
Dir: Gustav Möller
Prd: Lina Flint
Scr: Gustav Möller, Emil Nygaard Albertsen
Cast: Jakob Cedergren, Jessica Dinnage, Johan Olsen, Katinka Evers-Jahnsen, Omar Shargawi
DoP: Jasper J. Spanning
Music: Carla Luff
Running time: 85 minutes
The Guilty is out today on DVD and Blu-ray