The latest Netflix original film to mystify audiences is The Guilty, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as LAPD officer Joe Baylor. Joe works at a 911 call center, and the film follows him through a night of answering emergency phone calls while avoiding a reporter from the LA Times who wants to ask him about an incident that occurred eight months prior.
What makes the film interesting is that it's set entirely in a call center, meaning the majority of big-name actors who are in the film are only "seen" through their voices. But are the events that unfold in the film based on a true story? Here's everything we know.
Is 'The Guilty' a true story? It's a remake of a Danish film from 2018.
The story of The Guilty originates with Danish filmmaker Gustav Möller, who co-wrote and directed the original in 2018. The Guilty was Gustav's directorial debut, and it was even screened at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards.
In an interview with Variety, Gustav said he was inspired to make the film by two primary sources. The first was a YouTube clip of a 911 call from a real-life kidnapping. The second was the podcast Serial, which is about the 1999 murder of a Maryland student.
The 20-minute 911 call on YouTube featured a kidnapped woman speaking on the phone to the dispatcher in code while her kidnapper sat in the seat next to her. Gustav said that experience, "Felt like I was seeing images just listening to sound. It felt like I had seen this woman; I had an idea of the car she was sitting in and the road they were driving on."
However, after noticing multiple people who had listened to the clip pictured different settings for its duration, Gustav and co-writer Emil Nygaard Albertsen wanted to write a story "that would play out in different ways, in which everyone would have a unique experience, like watching their own film."
So, what does this mean for Netflix's version of the film? Theoretically, The Guilty is based on a true story because of the original context, but the characters of Joe Baylor, Emily Lighton, and others are likely fictional. Gustav said he wouldn't want to make a version of the film in another language (the original being in Danish), but Jake Gyllenhaal acquired the rights to the film later in 2018 and kept the bones of the story with new characters.
Ultimately, The Guilty is a nerve-wracking tale based on truth, but the majority of the story is fictional. While many have praised the film's unique format of choosing to share only the call center and the callers' voices, others have worried Jake's version doesn't quite live up to the original. Fans will have to see for themselves.
The Guilty (2021) is currently streaming on Netflix.