The Guilty is a mesmerizing psychological thriller from director Antoine Fuqua, who also directed Southpaw (2015), another psychological thriller. Both films have Jake Gyllenhaal as the lead, and nobody plays the stressed out role better than Gyllenhaal.
In The Guilty, Gyllenhaal is Joe Baylor, a police officer who has been demoted from police officer to working at a 911 dispatch center, where the entire film takes place. Baylor’s demotion stemmed from an incident for which he has an upcoming court case.
While working at the call center Baylor takes a call from Emily Lighton, played by Riley Keough, who tells Baylor that she has been abducted but has to initially hang up before she can give any details. Others involved in the drama are Matthew Fonenot, played by Paul Dano, and Henry Fisher, played by Peter Sarsgaard. Another detective involved in the situation is Sgt. Bill Miller, played by Ethan Hawke. These characters are a big part of the film, but we only we see Baylor throughout the call.
Much of the suspense of The Guilty comes from the scared voice of Emily on the phone call. Baylor strives for Emily’s safety, but he may be overstepping boundaries of what he is allowed to do as a dispatcher. Fuqua’s technique of letting us see Gyllenhaal’s emotions but only hear the emotions of the others on the calls is excellent, and he really does understand how to build suspense. Three and a half stars for The Guilty.