One night in the emergency police call centre, Officer Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren) has been assigned as part of the night shift, not that he particularly wants to be there, having been relegated to this duty since being under investigation recently. His case comes up tomorrow, but in the meantime he must deal with the parade of drunks and druggies phoning him up and giving him very little to work with as far as helping them goes. That is until he receives a call from someone calling themselves Iben (voiced by Jessica Dinnage) who seems to be in trouble of a far more serious nature. Could it be that Iben has ben kidnapped?
The Guilty, or Den skyldige as it was known in its original Danish, was very well thought of on its release, to the extent that the remake rights were snapped up by Hollywood before this had been especially widely seen outside of its native country, and there were plenty who found it incredibly tense for a film that was basically almost ninety minutes of a guy yakking on the phone. One of those single location efforts, it was the brainchild of co-writer and director Gustav Möller who wanted a showcase for his abilities that would be relatively cheap to make: this had one set, the office where Asger was working, though they managed variations on that by having him move around the place.
It was tense up to a point, as from the start it appears we were dealing with an abduction thriller where the victim was able to get to her phone and call the cops, though it was never explained why her kidnapper allowed her this, repeatedly, even after it was established she was not talking to her daughter. There were a few problems like that here, stretches of credibility for the sake of turning the screws and putting pressure on the characters, and chief among those were that not only would Asger not pass this case onto a team of co-workers once he realised there was something seriously wrong, but none of them seemed to be remotely interested in the peril unfolding down the line.
So there was a lot of plot convenience to get over if you wished to indulge yourself in The Guilty; couple that with a visual monotony you might have pondered this could have been more effective as a radio play, though the same narrative issues would be present. This was obviously a major incident, or as close to one that involved a family, but there was our hero alternately tetchily and anxiously answering the calls, pretty much stranded as he seeks his redemption. Yes, this was a tale of one man redeeming himself after a professional misconduct charge he has persuaded his partner to agree to cover up by lying under oath, realising that his position as a policeman is one of trust and truth, and not something to serve himself as he sees fit. Fair enough, but it did make this about Asger.
And not the crisis unfolding for Iben in that van hurtling down the motorway. She manages to let Asger know where he home is, and he calls her six-year-old daughter Mathilde (Katinka Evers-Jahnsen) to find out more, his horror growing as she reveals her father has dragged her mother out of the house by her hair and her baby brother may be in dire danger into the unlovely bargain. The cop then corrals his loyal yet corrupt partner Rashid (Omar Shargawi) into this by having him scout out the crazed husband’s apartment in an attempt to work out where he is heading for, intermittently calling Iben for updates: there was even a spot of action thrills over the phone when she tries to crash the van, for novelty. When the twist comes and reveals this all to be inextricably linked to mental illness, you cannot work out whether the filmmakers were being sensitive or exploitative, and that was another issue. But if you were capable of ignoring that and the other problematic narrative issues and corner-cutting, this moved along with some pace. Music by Carl Coleman and Caspar Hesselager.