Director: Craig Zobel
Writer: Craig Zobel
Starring: Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, Pat Healy
Review By: Griff
To say that compliance is a controversial film is a bit of an understatement. It infuriated people so much at Sundance that they were getting up and walking out of the theater. People just couldn’t fathom that this kind of thing could possibly happen without someone along the line calling bullshit on the the whole thing. I have to admit that while I was watching it, I was thinking the same thing. How could something like this happen? It’s unrealistic. Once the film was over, I decided it was time to find out about these “actual events” that this film is supposed to be based on. What I found out shocked me. Not only is this story real, it follows the actual events with surprising detail. In fact, if anything, the film is actually pulling a few punches when it comes to the reality of what happened to this poor girl.
Dreama Walker plays Becky, a young girl working at a local fast food restaurant called Chickwich (The real life fast food joint was a McDonalds). It starts off as a typical night with Becky joking around with her fellow employees and making the most of having to work on a Friday night. But then the store manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) gets a call from a man claiming to be “Officer Daniels.” He tells Sandra that he has a complaint from a woman at the police station saying that Becky stole money from her purse. Officer Daniels asks Sandra to bring Becky into the back room so they can search her pockets for the missing cash.
Becky of course denies any wrong doing. She complies with Sandra’s request and even allows Sandra to search through her purse for the missing cash. Then things start getting weird. Officer Daniels convinces Sandra that it would be a big time saver for everyone involved if Sandra would just perform a strip search of Becky in the back room. What follows is a series of events that will leave you dumbfounded as Becky is slowly tortured and made to do things so outlandish that it is hard to believe.
Compliance is a difficult film to watch. If the events taking place aren’t upsetting enough, Zobel shoots the film with washed out colors that will make you not want to go out and grab some fast food any time soon. It is a film that examines our relationship with figures of authority, our class distinctions, and our willingness to believe in what a person in authority tells us to do without question.
Dreama Walker does a good job with a very difficult role. I was impressed that she chose to tackle this one. That said, I expected her to display a bit more emotion toward the end of the film given the events that take place. She seems oddly removed from the things that happened to her. This may have been on purpose but it did stand out to me.
Besides Dreama I was really impressed with Ann Dowd as the store manager Sandra. She had pull off a believable performance in this film where everyone watching is thinking to themselves, “how can you be so naive!”
Compliance is not a film that is going to inspire multiple viewings but it was very well done and will leave you scratching your head in disbelief. It is available to stream on Netflix right now and I recommend checking it out. Compliance gets 2 guys out of 3 from me.