Jake Gyllenhaal conveys the anxiety experienced by 911 dispatchers in The Guilty. Screenshot from YouTube.
Jake Gyllenhaal is a one-man show in Netflix’s new psychological thriller, The Guilty. The End of Watch actor plays Joe Baylor, a Los Angeles Police Department cop forced to work a shift as a 911 dispatcher while awaiting trial for an unspecified work incident.
Antoine Fuqua’s dive into the high-stress world of 911 dispatchers is an anxiety-inducing remake of the 2018 Dutch film of the same name. The camera rarely leaves Gyllenhaal’s increasingly distressed face, effectively re-creating the claustrophobic call centers that dispatchers operate in for eight-hour, 12-hour, and sometimes daylong shifts.
Gyllenhaal stars alongside Ethan Hawke, Riley Keough, and Peter Sarsgaard, though he’s the only actor among them who actually appears on-screen. The entire film takes place in a call center and never strays from Baylor or his only connection to the outside world: his dispatcher headset.
A single call sends Baylor on an emotional journey to try to save a kidnapped woman and her young children. As he extracts more details from broken conversations with the caller, Baylor pieces clues together to reveal a situation much more complicated than it first seemed. The fictional plot is a slightly enhanced version of the original film’s, but it becomes worthwhile for its rare glimpse into the real emotional toll that answering calls takes on dispatchers.
Because dispatchers do not physically respond to the scenes of emergencies, they’re often left out of the umbrella of first responders. Their role in helping those in need is largely overlooked, despite the fact that the men and women answering phones are very literally the first to respond. Alarming rates of post-traumatic stress and depression among dispatchers have been linked to their high-stress workloads.
The Guilty makes it uncomfortably clear how symptoms of these conditions have the potential to impair dispatchers’ abilities to perform their jobs effectively.
In a single shift at a 911 call center, a dispatcher may handle calls for serious emergencies, including sudden deaths, suicides, and violent domestic disputes. At times, a dispatcher’s voice is the last one a person hears before dying. These kinds of traumas combined with high levels of stress have led to an unnerving shortage of dispatchers nationwide.
Because Gyllenhaal has the chops to pull off a two-hour ride with nothing but close-ups of his face, The Guilty works. As he sweats and squirms over the fate of the person on the other end of the line, Gyllenhaal’s performance provides a window into the world of emergency dispatchers and why those who respond to an average of 2,400 calls per dispatcher annually experience such high rates of burnout.
The Guilty gives emergency dispatchers, who are frequently overlooked in the world of first responders, a poignant and thought-provoking treatment.
Read Next: Most Florida First Responders Will Get $1000 COVID Bonus, But 911 Dispatchers Won’t
Mac Caltrider is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. He served in the US Marine Corps and is a former police officer. Caltrider earned his bachelor’s degree in history and now reads anything he can get his hands on. He is also the creator of Pipes & Pages, a site intended to increase readership among enlisted troops. Caltrider spends most of his time reading, writing, and waging a one-man war against premature hair loss.
The Air Force announced the permanent location for many more U.S. Space Force units Wednesday — and ...
Who exactly was Gen. Curtis LeMay? And how did he become the commander who razed more than 60 Japanese cities during World War II?
President Joe Biden has nominated a highly decorated Marine officer who has been involved in the transformation of the force to be the next Marine Corps commandant.
When the USS Arizona sank, it took 1,177 crew members with it. Today it remains beneath the water as a memorial to all those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor.
A pair of U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flew low over Sarajevo and several other Bosnian cities...
Lockheed Martin’s SR-71 Blackbird was a government secret for years. Now retired, a newer version plans to take its place.
Soldiers of the 9th Infantry Regiment made a desperate retreat as North Korean troops closed in arou...
In this installment of “Dear Jack,” Marine veteran and amateur life coach Jack Mandaville advises a lieutenant colonel on how to restore order in the lower ranks.