“The man who has a conscience suffers whilst acknowledging his sin. That is his punishment.”
In 2013, a film came out, largely forgotten and overlooked by our esteemed critics and trophy givers, starring Tom Hardy and director Steven Knight, that painted the edges of the possibilities of a powerhouse duo of acting and writing to deliver what I consider one of the best films of that year. A suspenseful tale of moral decay and redemption from a man with an emotionless disposition and an act of sheer moral bravery that likely cost him everything.
In 2018, we have an opportunity to revisit this dynamic with The Guilty from first time director Gustav Möller, about a detective (Jakob Cedergren), sidelined by field antics, awaiting trial, and forced to work the emergency phone lines until he can return to the streets. A film that echoes the themes of Black Lives Matter and the all too familiar qualified immunity or self-defense defenses we hear in America’s courtrooms that allows bad cops to escape justice. An unlikable character at best, surrounded by bleak terrain and people who have clearly had enough of his personality. A man who seems to fit the Danish Training Day replica of Denzel Washington.
And still, as he navigates his own anticipatory trial and return to the field based on fabricated reports — dragging his partner into the process — he comes in contact with a call of kidnapping that he feels indebted to complete. And complete he does. Driven by a chilling, suspenseful pace of moral redemption and the acting chops of a man on the edges of his own guilty conscience. A fine first installment from Möller, richly textured and inundated with sound design that, like Roma, has to be experienced on the big screen.
Although, I very much doubt The Academy will propel this entry into the final five (and they shouldn’t) after Sundance propelled this film into the spotlight, I look forward to what this man will do next.