The most disturbing thing about Compliance isn’t the film’s story (harrowing though it may be). No, the most disturbing thing about Compliance is that its story is true. It really happened. And the events you’ll see in this well-made-but-hard-to-get-through drama … well, you’ll want to believe that it’s only a movie–that something like this could never happen in the real world.
Compliance tells the story of what happened one day in a fast-food restaurant when a supposed policeman called the place’s manager and alleged that a young female employee had stolen money from a customer.
I say “supposed” because early on into the film, we know that the caller is not really a policeman. That’s no big revelation here. It’s a depraved creeper who gets off on the power trip of making these calls and turning people’s lives upside down.
In this case, he quickly forced the manager to strip-search the young employee. But it didn’t end there. He brought other folks into his scenario, including the manager’s boyfriend, who ends up forcing the girl to perform a sexual act on him as the situation gets more and more twisted.
The amazing thing about Compliance–the thing that will have you screaming at the TV in disbelief and protest–is that at no point does any of its characters ever question the validity of the “policeman”, even as his demands get more outlandish, inappropriate and, ultimately, criminal. They just take his word that he’s the real deal, get intimidated by his commanding tone, and all follow his progressively obscene orders.
At one point during the film, convinced that the filmmakers were exaggerating the true details of the story for dramatic effect, I Googled to find out about the true story. And, amazingly, this movie follows very closely what actually happened. Virtually all of the horrifying, unbelievable events are true.
What makes Compliance even more impactful is that it’s an excellent film. The tone here is close to documentary; there’s very little in the way of Hollywood style here, save for some music for dramatic effect. But the performances and dialogue are very natural, acted by an excellent cast led by Ann Dowd as the too-trusting manager and Dreama Walker as the poor victim of this obscenity.
Writer/director Craig Zobel has made a shocking, harrowing film that raises a lot of unsettling questions about blind obedience to authority. It’s far scarier than anything featuring zombies or vampires, because this monster was real. And he did this more than once.
Bonus features include a thought-provoking interview with Zobel that provides insight on the true sources and ideas behind his film.
Obviously, Compliance is not for the squeamish. It’s an important film, one that’s worth seeing and discussing. It is shocking and unforgettable. I’m glad I saw it, and I never, ever want to see it again.Buy Compliance [Blu-ray] on Amazon