The Guilty [7/10]

There is a distinct, clever movie genre in which a single character in one place handles a thriller crisis; think Phone Booth or the recent Oxygen. As with Oxygen, this claustrophobic new movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal, ”The Guilty,” provides edge-of-the-seat entertainment but struggles to chime deeply. Gyllenhaal plays a Los Angeles cop in a police call center. We know he has been demoted to this desk job due to some infraction and part of the pleasure of the film is paying attention to clues as to his predicament. He is portrayed as a moral, caring policeman, and when a caller turns out to be a kidnapped woman speaking in code, pretending to be talking to her daughter, he becomes increasingly frenetic to save her. The overall plot is serviceable, and the atmospherics in the claustrophobic emergency center are well portrayed, but Gyllenhaal is the movie’s core, and he gives a stellar performance. Overall, this genre is so tough to turn into gold, but The Guilty provides a tense, enjoyable filmic experience.

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