The Guilty film review: Danish thriller far from usual

Jakob Cedergren as police officer Asger Holm in The Guilty.
Jakob Cedergren as police officer Asger Holm in The Guilty.

WITH such a simple yet evocative title as The Guilty, many scenarios immediately spring to mind: someone has something to hide and dark secrets need to be brought to light.

There will be crimes, cops, cover-ups, intrigue, revelation and eventual vindication.

Well, The Guilty to some extent runs to script with such elements. It’s just that the way this much-lauded Danish thriller gets there is far from usual.

There is essentially but one point of view: one man, in one office. Two rooms. There is nothing else. No flashbacks or scenes from other locales. A few colleagues, with some minimal interaction.

It’s the kind of film likely to get lights buzzing at every film school trying to bring all those masterpieces to light on zero budgets.

The lights are suddenly buzzing for police officer Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren). He’s close to the end of shift after being demoted to deskwork as an emergency dispatcher.

Then, there’s a panicked phone call from a kidnapped woman and suddenly Holm is enlivened, bringing what seems like vast police experience to the task of piecing things together, keeping people alive.

He’s clearly intelligent, rather fractious, reliant on instinct, confident and compassionate. All of these characteristics have contributed to him being here at this moment.

He’s mostly talking to one woman at emergency central, one small child, the woman in the back of the van that he finds, loses, finds again in ever more tense and revealing exchanges.

It’s a tribute to director Gustav Moller and his co-screenwriter Emil Nygaard Albertsen that we experience so much in 90 minutes.

You’d have to assume Swedish actor Cedergren will pop up in some more mainstream films on the back of this, with the film recognised at a slew of international film festivals.

The various voice performances are unerringly excellent.

With the dark material, this is not exactly a guilty pleasure but every aspect of the film suggests many in cinemas around the world will find themselves in a room with a cop, with destiny at the end of the line.


The Guilty (M)

Directed by: Gustav Moller

Starring: Jakob Cedergren

Four stars

Reviewed by: Martin Turner

In cinemas now