Once again, Jake Gyllenhaal churns out a committed, visceral performance in Antoine Fuqua’s contained thriller “The Guilty.” The film’s world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival brings up the fascinating question — when will Gyllenhaal get another Oscar nomination?
It’s been over 15 years since the Los Angeles-born actor was nominated for supporting actor in Ang Lee’s romantic cowboy drama “Brokeback Mountain” (2005) opposite Heath Ledger. The film went on to win three Oscars for directing, adapted screenplay (Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana) and original score (Gustavo Santaolalla). Notwithstanding the infamous “Crash” win for best picture over “Brokeback,” the actor race was also interesting during that season: Gyllenhaal’s Jack Twist missed out on a Golden Globe nomination due to HFPA moving the performance to lead status, and then was followed by a SAG nomination and a shocking BAFTA win where eventual Oscar-winner George Clooney was double nominated for “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “Syriana” and contender “Cinderella Man” contender Paul Giamatti was snubbed.
Since then, Gyllenhaal’s roles haven’t been as widely recognized with awards, no matter the critical acclaim. With commendable turns in films such as “Zodiac” (2007) and “End of Watch” (2012), his Detective Loki in Denis Villeneuve’s taut mystery thriller “Prisoners” (2013) went unrecognized by all major awards groups. In my humble opinion, it’s the work that should have won him his first Academy Award.
His most notable snub came the following year for Dan Gilroy’s “Nightcrawler” (2014), which left him on the outside looking in despite noms from BAFTA, Critics Choice, Globe, and SAG; in favor of Bradley Cooper for “American Sniper.” Gyllenhaal’s list of memorable turns continued with “Nocturnal Animals” (2016), “Stronger” (2017) and now “The Guilty.”
With this English-language remake of the Danish feature, which was submitted but for best international feature but missed out, the L.A. setting could be an advantage with members of the acting branch. But an early release date and natural comparisons to the original may provide substantial hurdles. Moreover, in the midst of the ongoing fight for police reform, Gyllenhaal’s Joe Baylor, an aggressive and arrogant police officer who has a past of unforgiving “mishaps” on the street, could be too real for younger voters to engage with.
The film boasts excellent sound design and a tight edit from Jason Ballantine, which are worthy of consideration but will need to campaign heavily to be recognized. Nic Pizzolatto’s adapted script is keenly wrapped and keeps the audience involved, even if you may see the “twists” coming from a mile away.
So does Gyllenhaal make the best actor lineup? Judging by Netflix’s other features alone, such as “The Power of the Dog” with Benedict Cumberbatch and upcoming titles like “tick, tick…Boom!” with Andrew Garfield and “Don’t Look Up” with Leonardo DiCaprio, it may be hard for him to stand toe-to-toe this season. However, his second nom will come one day soon, and perhaps that will be his awards homerun.
“The Guilty” streams on Netflix on Oct. 1.