Is The Guilty Based On A True Story? | Screen Rant

Watching Jake Gyllenhaal’s The Guilty, it is not hard to believe that the dark thriller could be based on a true story. Set to the backdrop of the California wildfires and with a subplot involving police brutality, the story holds a certain sense of veracity, but how much of the film is true? As The Guilty is a remake of the 2018 Danish film Den Skyldige, one would need to trace the story back to its source to find the truth.

Though the subplot of the main character, Joe Baylor (played by crime-movie star, Jake Gyllenhaal) involves an episode of police brutality in The Guilty that is not in the original film, both films focus on a call-center operator becoming involved with a kidnapping. Throughout The Guilty, Joe seems on the brink of a mental breakdown, and while his character and the others in the film are not specifically based on real people, Joe’s stress and sense of helplessness in The Guilty are likely true effects of the job.

Related: The Guilty: Cast & Character Guide

Director and co-writer of Den Skyldige, Gustav Möller, claims that the inspiration for his film came from listening to real crime footage. Before making the film, Möller was inspired by a real 911 emergency call and the true-crime podcast, Serial. So, while the exact happenings of the plot and the characters are fictional, both Den Skyldige and its remake, The Guilty, are based on real elements from real crimes.

In The Guilty, the plot twists following Joe as he tracks a kidnapped woman, Emily (played by Riley Keough). Trapped in a vehicle with her kidnapper, Emily works to communicate her situation and location to Joe, while pretending that she is speaking to her young daughter Abby. This was taken directly from a real, 20-minute 911 call that Möller listened to on YouTube in which the caller spoke in code. Adding to this already thrilling element from the original film, The Guilty has the kidnapping take place during the very real California wildfires, further rooting the thrilling film in relatively recent events that are true to life. In an interview (via Variety), director Antoine Fuqua (who directed The Guilty from a van) says the fires were a nod to Dante’s Inferno and the idea that Joe’s character is in a kind of purgatory during the film.

Möller has also pointed toward a podcast, Serial, as inspiration. In an interview (via CNET), Möller says, “What I felt listening to Serial was for every episode of that show my images of these people and locations will change, because I'll get new information about the suspect and the victim." This is certainly the case in The Guilty, a film set entirely in one location with phone calls as the primary source of information. With each phone call Joe makes and receives with Emily, her husband Henry, and their daughter Abby, new information is revealed and the characters change. This leads to the films’ huge reveal—a twist that certainly makes one thankful that the plot of The Guilty is not true.

Next: The Guilty: Why The Reviews Say It's So Good

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