I’ve always admired Jake Gyllenhaal as an actor. Sure, he’s adaptable and is able to take on lots of different niche roles, but I think what I like most about him is his extraordinary ability to find the mental root of every character he portrays. Something about the way he brings a story to life on screen is profoundly psychological and engaging from an audience’s perspective. From Donny Darko to Prisoners, from Nightcrawler to Southpaw; I can’t help but watch with wonder as Gyllenhaal shows off his ability to embody a character so fully that he takes on their very mentality. He is able to make very subtle yet compelling choices in the portrayal of their emotions and reactions to other characters that make them undeniably memorable. That’s why I was so thrilled to see him star in the newest Netflix original film, The Guilty, and I was not disappointed in the slightest.
The film follows Los Angeles police officer Joe Baylor (Gyllenhaal) as he works as a 9-1-1 emergency operator during the 2020 California forest fires. Behind the scenes, he is struggling to cope with a mysterious incident that has taken him off of the streets and put him on desk duty. During a particularly strenuous day on the job, Baylor receives a 9-1-1 call from a woman who was apparently abducted and cannot speak freely to him over the phone. Through copious amounts of high-stakes detective work, Baylor must discover the woman’s identity and whereabouts in an attempt to save her life while also dealing with family and personal crises.
Once again, Gyllenhaal fully captured my attention in his role. I did not particularly love that he portrays a police officer, but I admired his ability to hold my interest for two hours by mostly staying in one room and talking on the phone. His frustration and mental strain added a prominent layer of intrigue to the character’s struggles prior to the start of the story and, ultimately, projected onto me, as I found my shoulders up near my ears by the end of the movie. If you’re looking for an exciting thriller for the Halloween season, The Guilty is the movie for you. — Isabelle Williams