Monday, November 12, 2018

Tell Me Some Stories

I knew in my head that The Guilty -- the Danish nominee for Best Foreign Film this year -- was all set in one location starring a single actor. I knew that was its gimmick going in, and I knew it, in the theoretical abstract, while watching it. But I had to keep reminding myself of that, and if you asked me to describe images from the film now I could describe in luxurious detail many scenes set outside of that room and starring other actors - even though we only stare at the face of the actor Jakob Cedergren the entire time The Guilty gave me an entire world, a riveting action thriller, stuffed with set-pieces and gut-punches.

Cedergren plays a police officer named Asgar who's been assigned to man the emergency line of the local Copenhagen precinct - in the grand tradition of every cop movie ever it's his last night on the job, and as soon as you hear that you know shit'll go down. Sure enough a woman calls in - she can't say anything so it only takes Asgar a moment to suss out she's in the process of being kidnapped. He flips into action like a pro, and off we go along with him - slapping together the clues, the mystery, trying to rescue a disembodied voice over the phone.

And writer-director Gustav Möller appreciates those voices - he knows the importance of stories, of spinning them, of getting inside of our heads. He teases our caveman instincts to fill in the pieces expertly, wrapping us up into the drama (even making us feel culpable a time or two for bad decisions - this movie would've made Hitchcock proud) while barely working up a sweat - The Guilty goes down effortlessly even though it's a true high-wire act. All we've got is Cedergren's face to stare at, and Möller makes the most of his angles, riffing a right full symphony off that face - a turn of the cheek as impactful as a car crash.

No comments: