Netflix’s ‘The Guilty’ Is 90 Minutes of Jake Gyllenhaal’s Face, And I Have No Complaints


Nearly all 90 minutes of The Guilty, a new thriller movie now streaming on Netflix, feature Jake Gyllenhaal‘s face. Sometimes it’s Jake Gyllenhaal’s face from the side. Sometimes it’s Jake Gyllenhaal’s face from a distance. A few times it’s Jake Gyllenhaal’s face through a window. The majority of the time, however, it’s just a dead-on close-up of Jake Gyllenhaal’s face. And I have absolutely no complaints.

Gyllenhaal’s face is an objectively good face. In The Guilty, it’s a face that is often contorted in frustration, anger, and pain. Gyllenhaal stars as a hot-tempered cop named Joe who’s currently on leave, assigned to take calls as a 911 operator instead. It’s not clear why he’s not in the field, but, supposedly, he will be back to his regular cop duties soon. What is clear is that Joe can’t wait to get back in the action. Fielding 911 calls from freaked-out stoners and sleazy businessmen is clearly not his idea of a fulfilling career. For the first 15 minutes of the film, Gyllenhaal’s face simmers with barely concealed impatience and frustration.

But then Joe receives a call that catches his interest. At first, it’s not clear why the woman on the other end of the line—Emily, voiced by Riley Keough, though we never see her face—is calling. She calls the operator “Sweetie,” as if she was talking to her child. Joe very nearly hangs up on her, thinking perhaps the woman dialed a wrong number, or is drunk. But when Emily mentions that she’s out for a drive, Joe pauses.

“Have you been abducted?” he asks.

Yes,” she breathes.

The guilty
Photo: NETFLIX © 2021

From there, Joe is on a mission to save Emily. The rest of the film follows his attempts to rescue her. He never leaves the call center, and we don’t, either. Emilly’s story, which comes with a few unexpected twists and turns, unfolds entirely over the phone, meaning that our only visual is, you guessed it: Jake Gyllenhaal’s face.

To say The Guilty showcases Gyllenhaal’s talent would be an understatement. He has a different voice for every person he talks to: calm, competent, and commanding when he’s walking Emily through what to do; gentle, understanding, and nurturing when he’s speaking to Emily’s young daughter; clipped, frustrated, and resentful when speaking to the police on duty; menacing, dangerous, and violent when speaking to the man he believes to be the kidnapper.

And despite the limited mobility of a role that takes place in one location, and almost entirely on the phone, Gyllenhaal makes the most of his physicality. He sweats and grips his chair and fiddles with his pen. He wipes his brow and flexes his hands and rocks back and forth in his chair. Does it help that Gyllenhaal has what PopSugar.com describes as “piercing blue eyes and scarily captivating good looks,” and that he’s wearing a polo that shows off those toned arms? I mean, yes. Absolutely. This movie wouldn’t work at all if audiences didn’t want to stare at the lead for 90 minutes straight. It only makes sense to cast someone beautiful.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua, with a screenplay from Nic Pizzolatto, The Guilty is an English-language remake of the critically-acclaimed 2018 Danish film of the same name. It may not be a great movie, but it is a great movie for Gyllenhaal’s face. And really, what more can you ask for?

Watch The Guilty on Netflix





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