How Many Dramas About 911 Operators Do We Need? – At The Movies With Kasey

There’s a whole show about 911 dispatchers and the first responders they connect people with. A few years ago, Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin starred in The Call about a 911 dispatcher. Now, Netflix has released The Guilty, a suspenseful drama about a 911 call that made me wonder, just how many stories like this do we want?

In The Guilty, an LAPD officer demoted to 911 dispatch, Joe Baylor (Jake Gyllenhaal), takes a call from an abducted woman, Emily (Riley Keough), and frantically tries to locate the moving van she is in to save her from her violent ex-husband (Peter Sarsgaard). With the safety of Emily and her children in the balance, and his career on the line, Joe soon learns that not everything is as it sounds.

Without getting into spoilers, The Guilty provides a decently suspenseful story with a pretty significant third-act twist. The breadcrumbs are dropped sufficiently that I knew something was coming, but I did not guess what. The story, however, takes place against the backdrop of wildfires and in the context of investigations into police brutality. Both of these elements are used more than anything to set the story in a very particular time. Otherwise, I am not sure they are necessary to the plot. I think perhaps it would have been more interesting for the movie to not wrap things up cleanly and instead have the ominous hearing that Joe has “tomorrow” hanging over his head without the script ever expounding on what exactly he did wrong. The question of why he was demoted and the impact it had on him emotionally was more interesting than the answer was. The movie tries to moralize “Broken people save broken people,” a half-hearted spin on “hurt people hurt people,” but in doing so it makes false equivalencies more than it makes a point.

The Guilty uses a limited cast of characters—several only through voice acting—and one location, which is a setup that I love, but that puts a lot of weight on Jake Gyllenhaal’s acting. Or, in this film, overacting. Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Joe is initially so angry that it almost put me off of the movie entirely.

In the end, I wish that this film had trusted the simplicity of its setup more, opting out of decisions to make the story rooted in 2020 and toning down the performances a bit. Even still, it is a quick, interesting thriller that I recommend.

The Guilty was written by Nic Pizzolatto, based on the motion picture Den Skyldige by Gustave Moller, and directed by Antoine Fuqua. It runs 90 minutes and is rated R for language and violence.

Another project starring Peter Sarsgaard, Dopesick tracks the origins of the opioid epidemic through the stories of Purdue Pharma executives, pharmaceutical sales reps, coal miners, and small-town doctors and pharmacists. As of this writing, three episodes have been released.

Proceeding nonlinearly through time, Dopesick is to opioids what The Looming Tower is to 9/11. By taking real people and transforming them into fictional characters, the show creates a band of villains at Purdue Pharma, led by Richard Sackler (Michael Stuhlbarg), who even has minions to do his bidding in the form of drug sales reps, Billy Cutler (Will Poulter) and Amber (Phillipa Soo). If the bad guys are a little one-dimensional, the show makes up for it with underdogs to root for, even if they’ve been ethically compromised: primarily Dr. Samuel Finnix, who is played wonderfully by Michael Keaton and the coalminer he is treating with oxycontin, Betsy Mallum. Kaitlyn Dever is haunting in that role. Meanwhile, US Attorney Rick Mountcastle (Peter Sarsgaard) and DEA Agent Bridget Meyer (Rosario Dawson) try to take the Sackler family to court.

So far, Dopesick is a little slow, but the character development of Dr. Finnix and Betsy has me hooked. The acting is first class and the story behind the show is incredibly important. I will definitely continue to watch this one.

Dopesick is a Hulu original series, that runs for 8 episodes. It was created by Danny Strong, based on the book, Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company That Addicted America by Beth Macy.

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The Waynedale News Staff

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