The New York Times Review: ‘The Guilty’ Places a Troubled Police Officer on Hold

By Jeannette Catsoulis



Like the best podcasts and radio plays, the stripped-down Danish thriller “The Guilty” paints such vivid pictures with words that, afterward, we´re not exactly sure what we saw and what was merely imagined.


Imagination, though, is so rarely asked of movie audiences these days that the daring of the first-time feature director, Gustav Moller, can hardly be overstated. Locking the viewer in two cramped, drab rooms, he builds suspense with little more than a single character and a few voices on a telephone. But the ingenious screenplay (by Moller and Emil Nygaard Albertsen) reaches beyond the solving of a mystery to paint a psychological portrait of the man at its center.


That would be Asger Holm (an astonishing Jakob Cedergren), a resentful police officer demoted to emergency-response telephone duty while waiting for an unspecified disciplinary proceeding. Calmly contemptuous of his callers´ minor crises, Asger snaps out of his boredom when a terrified woman contacts him, claiming to have been kidnapped by her ex-husband. Discarding the rules that require him to simply relay the information to field officers, Asger resolves to stay on the case, frantically using his detecting skills while concealing his efforts from the dispatchers around him.


Unfolding in real time, this immediately involving story bends and turns in surprising, sometimes horrifying ways. Enriched by Oskar Skriver´s marvelous sound editing, which takes us from a speeding van to a bloodcurdling crime scene with equal authenticity, the movie smoothly blends police procedural with character study. What´s happening on the end of Asger´s phone line is gripping enough, but what´s happening inside his head - illuminated by Jasper Spanning´s almost abusive close-ups - is every bit as fascinating.


The Guilty

Director Gustav Möller

Writers Gustav Möller, Emil Nygaard Albertsen

Stars Jakob Cedergren, Jessica Dinnage, Omar Shargawi, Johan Olsen, Jacob Lohmann

Rating R

Running Time 1h 25m

Genres Crime, Drama, Thriller


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Rated R for - what else? - language. In Danish, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes.