It’s as spartan and basic as filmmaking gets. But you stand in awe of the subtle complexities fueling “The Guilty” in its riveting depiction of a disgraced cop solving a kidnapping without setting one foot outside a claustrophobic call center. It’s a credit to director and co-writer Gustav Möller that the tension is palpable, as twists pile upon twists. But what impresses more is the way “The Guilty” cleverly plays upon our assumptions about gender and police procedure. It’s safe to say nothing of what you’re seeing is close to what it seems.

If you’re familiar with Steven Knight’s acclaimed “Locke,” you’ll have a solid idea of what Möller is up to in his man-on-the-phone drama set in real time with the camera never severing its gaze from a protagonist caught at a personal and professional crossroads. And like “Locke,” all the other actors are merely voices heard on the other end of the line, the most important being that of Jessica Dinnage as Iben, a mother who dials 1-1-2 (Denmark’s 9-1-1) while being held captive inside a speeding van.

She has only an inkling of which highway her abductor is traveling, which puts the onus on Asger Holm — the disgruntled dispatcher taking her call — to figure it out through ingenuity and cockeyed intuitiveness. As Asger, Jakob Cedergren is uncanny in his ability to communicate through body language, eye movements and facial expressions his character’s every thought, as the clock counts down on saving Iben. Furthering Asger’s torment is the knowledge that this could be his final night on the Copenhagen police force, pending a disciplinary hearing the next morning.

The reason for that inquest dribbles out via tantalizing hints dropped amid Asger’s conversations with his fellow dispatchers, his off-duty partner, Rashid (Omar Shargawi), and repeated calls to Iben’s husband (Johan Olsen) and preschool daughter (Kantika Evers-Jahnsen). The bigger question is why is Asger taking this so personally when he clearly harbors nothing but bitterness toward a job he’s been forced to perform while under investigation? It’s the crime-solver in him, no doubt, but it’s also as if he needs to prove something to himself about what kind of cop he is and wants to be. So, in effect, saving Iben is saving himself.

Watching him piece it together is fascinating; courtesy of a well-written script by Möller and Emil Nygaard Albertsen that predictably stretches credulity, but never to the point of distraction. Möller, with an assist from director of photography Jasper Spanning, furthers our investment by keeping us glued on Cedergren face — and almost nothing but his face — for 85 minutes via a varied array of angles and optics.

It doesn’t hurt that Cedergren is a dead ringer for a young Val Kilmer, making him easy on the eyes. But it’s his acting that dazzles, running a gamut of emotions from hope to despair to frustration while in the pursuit of solving the mystery. He also slyly explores Asger’s impetuousness nature when it comes to making suppositions and acting on them without benefit of facts. Patience is not his virtue; neither is thinking things through, and you can count on it coming back to bite him.

Without giving anything away, just know the ending is a stunner that keeps you in suspense. It’s earned, too, which is something you can’t say for a lot of movies. And it’s constructed with an economy that makes every second count. Sure, it’s derivative, but if you ask, “Was I entertained?” I have no choice but to plead “Guilty.”

“The Guilty”
Cast includes Jakob Cedergren, Johan Olsen, Omar Shargawi and Jessica Dinnage. (In Danish with English subtitles).
(R for language.)
Grade: B+