Reviews of “The Guilty” and “Surge” films: men on the verge of breakdown

Jake Gyllenhaal’s new thriller, the guilty, has a healthy cast list that includes Ethan Hawke, Riley Keough, Paul Dano, Peter Sarsgaard, Eli Goree, comedian Bill Burr and the great Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Dolemite is my name). You won’t see any in the movie. You will however hear quite a few. Randolph as a tired dispatcher for the California Highway Patrol; Hawke as the understanding sergeant under whom Gyllenhaal’s character, Officer Joe Baylor, once worked; Keogh and Sarsgaard as a couple in great difficulty.

These are some of the characters we hear entirely through Joe’s headset, crying out for his attention on a very busy night at a 911 emergency response center in Los Angeles. The decor in itself is already a real chamber of tension and nervous energy. And the night when the guilty unfolding was already difficult for Joe at the start. On the one hand, the California wildfires are raging – bad news for Joe’s asthma and, worse, an obstacle to sending officers to save people, even drunken fools, in the midst of everything. that smoke. Plus the added strain of Joe’s family life, which isn’t really a life anymore: six months apart from his wife, living in an AirBnB, missing daughter and old life, you get it.

There is also the other thing. The reason he is on duty at the call center, being the dispatcher rather than being on the street, in uniform, being dispatched. The reason he and his wife are separated. the guilty takes place on the eve of a hearing in which Joe will face a shooting involving an officer. He was the officer. The victim died. Joe has feelings about it. All.

the guilty is a memorable 2018 remake Den Skyldige (the guilty), directed by Gustav Möller, who co-wrote it with Emil Nygaard Albertsen. This new version was produced by Antoine Fuqua and written by Real detectiveby Nic Pizzolatto. If you’ve seen that previous movie, you know the premise of this one; the differences are largely cosmetic. A woman named Emily (Keogh) calls the emergency response and gets the already stressed out Joe who almost hangs up when it looks like the woman has dialed the wrong number, is out of her rocker, or whatever; obviously she seems to be talking on the phone like a child. But Joe – and those of us in the audience, who never leave Joe for the hour and a half of the movie – quickly realize that something is wrong. Is this gibberish she’s talking, or is she trying to ask for help? When the answer appears, Joe’s hero instincts kick in and, with them, some of his less appealing qualities as a co-worker and cop, starting with his apparent inability to keep his cool. Watching the guilty it’s like watching Gyllenhaal juggle loaded guns. Every two seconds you expect one of them to go off; you expect to have to wonder who was touched this time.

Did I mention that Joe is an asshole? Shouting, throwing things, testing the patience of the agents on the other end of the line as they pursue a possibly kidnapped woman with only the most threadbare information at their disposal (“a white van”) and pull the neck. at Joe’s insistence by breaking into a house without a warrant. It’s all unbearably stressful, quite to the point of the movie. the guilty is designed, programmed half dead, to be a pressure cooker. Joe’s frustration is understandable, especially as the image becomes clearer of this mysterious caller. And so Gyllenhaal gets a lot of benefit from his crew neck cut and tight shirt, flexing the venous tension he’s managed to affect in his body and manners. The performance is blatantly excessive: Joe’s emotions are excessive. He has too many things to do upstairs to not being a walking stress ball, starting with his overwhelming sense of guilt for this shootout he’s at stake for, which is clearly – Gyllenhaal is nothing if not clear about it – gnaws at him. inside. When he admits to another dispatcher, played by Adrian Martinez, that he’s been a jerk at work, what can the other guy say besides: I know?

Add to that a huge panel of screens, square in front of his desk, showing these raging fires, and it is as if the man is in a living hell. Fuqua, who shot the movie in 11 days during the pandemic – quarantined, no less, thanks to coming in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus (Fuqua tested negative) – is keeping it all very tight. Maybe this situation, not having full control due to social distancing, inspired something to him. The most striking thing about the guilty is Joe’s inability to control the chaos, both the one that rages within him and the one that plays out in the terrible phone game that has become his night.

The script, however, is still too schematic about all of this; this was also true of the original, although the freshness of this film, unlike the literal fire and brimstone of Fuqua, hid its deficits much more successfully. There is indeed more going on with Emily and her partner, Henry (Sarsgaard), than it might at first appear. But the real kicker of the movie isn’t so much the jagged twist that sums up this part of the story. Joe has a shootout involving an officer over his head. He knows it. We know it. The film knows it. He knows what he’s doing when he takes complexity out of the guy by putting him in the most stressful situation possible; he knows this gives us a glimpse of a man being pushed to the visible breaking point, which is one way to imagine this same man six months ago, despite the circumstances of what happened never have really worked out. Speaking of fires: it’s quite a spectacle of smoke, a whole soulless flash-bang complexity. As the titles go, the guilty – short, descriptive, precise – could not be more appropriate. Like the movie it adorns, it seems to tell you almost everything you need to know. And gets away with it almost without saying much.

At Aneil Karia Rise, another film about a troubled Joseph, is also a pressure cooker. And a film more interesting than the guilty, if only because its endgame turns out to be much less ambitious than it seems at first glance, to the point of making the film seem half-mysterious. For a while this Joseph (Ben Whishaw) is showing all the signs that he’s the kind of guy we tend to worry about. On the one hand, it is a little too quiet. On the other hand, his eyes – and the giant pockets under them – are too loud. Briton Joseph, who works in airport security and makes a living by tapping awkwardly, can probably be summed up in one detail: watching his colleagues eat a birthday cake in the break room, hearing them talk about carrot cakes, without him never spoke to say that it is his cake – his birthday.

So: antisocial. Not the type to express himself. Lives alone, little furniture, eats dinners on TV, intensely watches things as if dreaming of their destruction, or maybe barely noticing that they are there – it’s hard to say. Karia’s film, with its hand-held intensities and shallow eagle eye for Whishaw’s performance, does give us plenty of other behavioral details to hang on to, however. Such as the tremor of disgust, or at least of displeasure, at the humiliation of others during these palpations. They are half naked, but it is Joseph who seems to be dressing. And what about Joseph’s habit of biting on forks or the edge of glasses, like he’s trying to tiptoe to the point of hurting himself, just daring his body? break ?

It ends up happening: a glass shatters in his mouth during a visit to his parents, blood flows everywhere and Joseph gets what he wants. Because, while Joseph may very well have something wrong, from a mental health standpoint, Rise It is not so much an illness or a specific form of psychic collapse as it is a man trying to wake up. You know, feel more alive. A man who does terribly inadvisable things to get this feeling: namely, in the middle of the movie, he starts robbing banks.

Whishaw is a very good actor, and while other stars could have pulled off the role, he has the qualities that downplay the film’s artifices and make Joseph worth watching. The film is effective almost in spite of itself. Things that could very well be more by heart, like his vision of his parents – his depressed and worried mother (played by a very good Ellie Haddington) and his stubborn, irascible son of a bitch dad (Ian Gelder, also good) – are a little more intriguing than they could have been in any other movie. It’s too easy for the movies to give us these scenes, these quick tours of the damn antihero’s emotional genetics, and ask us to do the quick math and say, “Ah, that’s why he’s here. ‘is.” But these scenes and others are strangely fascinating. Watching Joseph’s dad try to plug in a washing machine, refusing help, while everyone just stands – frustrated, but silent about it – gain strength by being so emotionally readable. They’re waiting for this stubborn man and, well, so are we.

The chemistry of it all, with Whishaw as an anchor, makes a good movie, not a good one. But the intensity of Riseis scattered, myopic realism is not for nothing. Even with its familiar visual and dramatic approach – the extent to which we are firmly and subjectively pushed into Joseph’s world and forced to tip over for a while amid his unpredictable behaviors – the film has a weird little punch. In the end, I wasn’t sure if I totally bought it. I wasn’t sure it really mattered either.

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