Netflix’s latest thriller The Guilty, as you all might already know, is a remake of a 2018 Danish thriller of the same name. The original is directed by Gustav Moller while the American remake is directed by Antoine Fuqua.
Not going to lie, I watched Jake Gyllenhaal’s American version first. But it seems like Fuqua has changed a lot and added other perspectives into this 2021 version. Compared to the 2018 version, The Guilty (2021) does take up different issues apart from just being a thriller.
Whether the original is better or the remake is a decision you have to make after watching both. Here’s what I observed and thought after a comparison of both and which one seemed better to me.
As a thriller in general and in terms of performance, the 2018 version seemed better than the 2021 remake. The 2021 remake is still a watchable thriller, but it falls prey to Hollywood conventions of justifying the male lead, which the original had managed to avoid.
Changes in the 2021 Remake
So let’s talk about what was changed and what remained the same between the 2018 version and the 2021 version.
Well, the core story or the central plot as well as the dialogues remain quite the same in the 2021 version. Both have an identical storyline involving a demoted police officer, named Asger in the 2018 version and Joe Baylor in the 2021 version.
The emergency calls, the constant agitation in the part of the officer, even the one location setting is absolutely the same in the remake and the original. I was shocked as to how absolutely identical majority part of the dialogues were.
So then, is it just a frame by frame remake? I would say no. Gyllenhaal’s version adds some inputs into the story which was not there in the original.
In the remake, the office is set in Los Angeles. So naturally, the setting is much more lively and there are more number of people involved. Also, the remake added the California wildfires as a backdrop. On the day of the incident, the California fires are shown raging and it is also the reason why things get delayed and causes the lead more agitation.
Since emergency supplies are limited due to the fire, Joe, in the remake decides to take the case in his own hands and also involves people close to him in the case.
Another input by the remake was the small side plot involving Joe’s wife and child. Joe and his wife, it is revealed, have been separated for 8 months. It only adds to Joe’s stress as he misses his young daughter.
The track of Joe being away from his daughter is given due significance because there is a way in which Joe can relate to Emily’s situation, who he thinks is being taken away from her children. After speaking to Emily’s daughter Abby, Joe becomes more emotionally involved in the case probably because he got reminded of his own daughter.
This whole family business was not there in the original, which the remake introduces into the narrative.
BTW, Oliver, Emily son’s whom she ends up injuring actually remains alive in the remake. This is different from the original as well, as in the original there is no way the boy can be saved. In this aspect, the original is way more brutal in approach.
Lastly, the ending is also done in a different way in the remake. In the original, Asger talks the kidnapped woman from committing suicide by jumping off a cliff by admitting to his crime of shooting a young boy because he could. The whole office hears his confession and stares in shock while Asger leaves.
In the remake, though Joe has a similar conversation with Emily, he has it in an almost empty office in a separate room. His confession was not sudden. Later, he called up a reporter who had contacted him earlier and admits to his crime for her to print.
So the remake is a little more kind to the lead and gives him a redemption arc, while the original leaves a lot to us because we do not really see Asger asking his friend to not go by a plan to save him. In the remake though, Joe tells his friend to not lie in court to save him and rather say the truth about what he did.
In other words, while Asger does not admit to making a mistake but just confesses his crime, Joe probably understands what he did and refuses to be saved with the help of lies.
Which Storyline was Better?
While the 2018 version storyline simply focuses on being a thriller rather than delving too much into the psychological aspect of the lead, the 2021 remake focuses a lot on Joe’s physical and mental issues and even adds his family into the plot.
I think the family addition was not supremely necessary, but the change in the ending was incorporated well. The conversation that Joe has with his wife Jess does not really serve any purpose apart from garnering sympathy for Joe.
The plot of the remake anyways goes beyond its way to make sure Joe is not hated and tries to justify his actions by providing long conversations of the lead character with his acquaintances. So, I don’t see the logic or the need to add more to an already sympathetic plot.
Another thing I felt made the remake storyline better is this idea of distrust in the police.
In one important scene, Joe has a conversation with Abby, Emily’s six year old daughter. When he tells her that the police will bring her mother back and keep her safe, she does not seem convinced. She says that they were the ones who had taken away her father from her.
In the original, the kidnapped woman’s daughter Mathilde did not behave in the same way but rather recognized the police as heroes. Interestingly, this heroic portrayal of the police is not a part of the 2021 version narrative.
I like this change and think it was needed. Considering the perils of police brutality in the US in the recent years, glorifying the police is something the popular media can abstain from doing.
Jakob Cedergan or Jake Gyllenhaal: The Better Actor?
Before getting into whip among Cedergan and Gyllenhaal is the better actor, I must say both deliver really different performances. Cedergan’s Asger is much more subtle. Though agitated and stressed, his performance is very much covert.
Cedergan acts throughout using just his eyes, while Gyllenhaal’s Joe is much more expressive and shows overt behaviour. He loses his cool with people over call, slams his work desk in frustration and frequently yells at others.
In contrast, Cedergan’s Asger has every emotion that Joe faces but he does not express them with outbursts. We can see it in his expressions and movement. Co
Coming to the performance bit, both have done a fairly good job in the acting department. But I would say Jakob’s performance seems a little more mature than Gyllenhaal. I am not saying Gyllenhaal was not good, but perhaps Jakob Cedergan was somewhat better to watch.
Overall Verdict: Which one is Better?
Frankly speaking, I am not a huge fan of either. Both the remake and the original is a good one time watch thriller, but it is not the best of thrillers I have watched.
In some places, it seems boring and stretchy in case of the remake and Joe’s breakdown scenes seem never ending. There is constant repetition of dialogues and you seem to lose interest mid way.
This problem is not present in the original. I would say the original is slightly better as a thriller. Speaking cinematically, it is a better film and fits the idea of a gripping thriller well.
I did not really see the point of the remake apart from some added layers, out of which most were designed to whitewash or purge the main lead of all the mistakes. It is as though they were added to provide justification as to why he did what he did.
That did not sit well with me at all, TBH. I mean the last thing a thriller should do is add value judgements and try to whitewash its main lead by adding side stories to justify his failing mental health. Anyway, even then the remake is more or less watchable.
If you have not watched the original, it will be able to hold your attention (though it will fail to in parts). But I would still say the original is better. In terms of performance as well as the crispness of a thriller, it is a better watch.
About The Guilty
The Guilty is an upcoming American crime thriller film, serving as a remake of the 2018 Danish film (Den Skyldige) of the same name. It is directed and produced by Antoine Fuqua, from a screenplay by Nic Pizzolatto.
After a limited theatre release, it will be available on Netflix, October 1 onwards.
It stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Joe Bayler who answers a distressing 911 call that takes him down the path of dangerous events. Cast members include Ethan Hawke, Peter Sarsgaard, Riley Keough, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Paul Dano, and Bill Burr.