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Compliance: Upsetting but Riveting

Posted on the 04 January 2013 by Haricharanpudipeddi @pudiharicharan
Compliance: Upsetting but Riveting

Movie: Compliance

Cast: Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker and Pat Healy

Director: Craig Zobel

Rating: ***

As upsetting as it may appear, “Compliance” still manages to have our attention by presenting nothing but simple facts. It could’ve been just another news story on a late night news show but thanks to Craig Zobel; we get to see a shocking true story recreated for screen.

Set in a fast food joint, the story revolves around a phone call that literally changed the lives of few employees. Sandra (Dowd), manager of a fast food restaurant receives a phone call from a man claiming to be a police officer. He claims one of her employees Becky (Walker), stole money from a customer’s purse, and therefore requests young Becky to be frisked and kept under constant surveillance until he arrives. But what begins as a watchdog job soon gets changed into something nastier. The rest of the story is about the most malevolent prank ever recorded.

While trying to shine a light on one of the worst events ever, Craig subtly shifts focus on workplace etiquettes. In a way, the film not only blames the caller, but also the recipient, Sandra, who despite being suspicious never raised any alarm.  In fact, in the name of the law, she gave herself in too much without even thinking about the slightest possibility of the hoax element attached.

The film may be just another recreation of a nightmarish experience, but to call it merely that will be debatable. What keeps the story intact is its unadulterated presentation of facts, which may appear obnoxious, but are true and engaging to the context of the film. The climax, which is tailored to perfection, addresses a set of questions that are raised through the course of the film, and the entire episode with Sandra towards the end is more or less of a revelation.

Ann Dowd is the pick of the actors. Not only does she portray her role with ease, but her dedication as Sandra is commendable. Her part is most definitely one of the better women performances of recent time. Walker’s performance as the victim is as not as appealing as one might have expected. A young girl going through an ordeal that is frightening and humiliating should be visually peripheral and chronically emotional. I agree most of it may not appear plausible but it takes guts to narrate an emotionally disturbing story with conviction.

Shot completely in independent film style, “Compliance” questions authority of every character involved. It takes more than guts to challenge authority, which somehow none of the characters portrayed in the film. For instance, where was Sandra’s authority when she was asked by a man claiming to a policeman to do things she wasn’t sure if she could do to Becky? The point Craig manages to send across is that authority needs to be questioned at different junctures, and if not what is likely to happen may be as bad as what you see in the film.

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