The Guilty (3 stars)

The Guilty

Jokob Cedergren puts in an strong performance as the emergency call operator fighting against time to find a kidnapped woman

From Phone Booth and The Call to Locke and the recent John Cho-starrer Searching, the 'one character and their phone/laptop/whatever' has become something of a mini-trend. Danish-made, The Guilty falls into this category, set entirely in a featureless office where a former police officer is on dispatch duty.

Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren) sits at his desk, fielding emergency calls. His senses are sharp, judging by the way he sniffs out the deception behind one man's protestation that he's been mugged by a woman when it's clear he's been in the red light district on the prowl.

The plot really kicks up a gear when Asger receives a call from a woman named Iben (Jessica Dinnage), claiming she's been abducted by her unstable ex-husband and is in trapped in a moving vehicle. With her two young children left home alone, it becomes a race against time to find her before the situation worsens further.

The conceit, of course, is that the camera never leaves Asger's face; we never cut to the woman in distress. Debut director Gustav Möller generates tension purely through clever use of sound and Cedergren's sweating brow. While Holm does switch rooms at one point, at least offering the viewer some respite from what could be a rather monotonous setting, it's to the credit of the director and cinematographer Jasper Spanning that you're not left yearning for a cut-away to the voice at the end of the phone.

It helps that Cedergren is a compelling presence you want to watch, and that his flawed character is no angel of mercy. Despite further twists as the narrative unfolds, The Guilty doesn't quite sustain its conceit across its lean running time but it's a bold thriller from Möller and liiable to put Hollywood on high alert.

Limited release from Fri 26 Oct.

The Guilty

  • 3 stars
  • 2018
  • Denmark
  • 1h 25min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Gustav Möller
  • Cast: Jakob Cedergren, Jessica Dinnage, Omar Shargawi
  • UK release: 26 October 2018

Asger (Cedergren) is a former police officer now reduced to taking emergency calls, when he gets a call from a woman (Dinnage) who claims to have been kidnapped by her ex-husband. Möller sets the entire film in his office, skilfully generating tension with clever use of sound and the compelling presence of Cedergren. A…