A polished Netflix adaptation of the 2018 Danish thriller with a single location about an abducted lady seeking assistance is a quality work of entertainment.
Here is a tense single-location thriller directed by Antoine Fuqua that is based on Gustav Möller’s highly regarded Danish film Den Skyldige (The Guilty), but with a little more Hollywood glitz.
It is based on the time-honored premise that a 911 emergency operator must take a nerve-wracking call from a female kidnap victim who is pretending to her captor that she is speaking to her infant daughter while speaking (The Call, a 2013 movie starring Halle Berry as the operator, featured a similar concept.)
Jake Gyllenhaal plays LAPD officer Joe Baylor, who is a troubled man with a broken marriage and worsening health. He appears to have gotten into major difficulty over some incident at work because the media keeps calling him.
Joe has been demoted to what he views as the humiliatingly lowly position of emergency operator with a headset phone, handling 911 calls from the general public, the great majority of which are farcically trivial, while his case is being examined. Wildfires in California are also continuously generating an atmosphere of urgency.
When a terrified woman calls, Joe is moved to take her call in tears. Even though he has his own problems, his police skills shine through as he quickly figures out what’s going on and how to solve it from a few clues.
The analogies to his own difficult family circumstances also make the agonized Joe believe that there may be hope for personal atonement and that he should make a last-ditch effort to control and resolve the entire matter over the phone. He starts being increasingly irrational and disrespectful, continuing to work after his shift is over and disregarding all the other 911 calls.
It’s a staged set-up, so Gyllenhaal needs to lose it more extravagantly with yelling, losing his temper, and confessional misery as the dramatic effect of the closeup on the officer’s sweaty face and the faraway voice on the other end of the line begins to wear off over time.
Yet as time goes on, it appears that both the circumstance and the identity of the title are more convoluted than Joe initially believed.
It’s a well-made and interesting movie about a man in a secular confessional box who feels like he has to act like a priest.
Gyllenhaal does some good close-up acting, which may be too much to make up for the lack of normal dramatic action.