Compliance Directed by: Craig Zobel Cast: Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, Pat Healy, Bill Camp Running Time: 1 hr 34 mins Rating: R Release Date: August 31, 2012 (Chicago)
PLOT: A fast food restaurant manager (Dowd) is intimidated by a policeman (Healy) telling her what to do over the phone.
WHO'S IT FOR?: If you like stories that mess with your head without having to resort to the sight of blood, then Compliance is a wise choice. Whether it makes you walk out of the theater or not, it's definitely worth the trip.
Taking place in one afternoon in a ChickWich (a fictional fast food restaurant), Compliance is a daytime nightmare that you aren’t soon to shake off. A slow-burning thriller, this movie serves up super-size questions concerning the power of authority with a micro concept. A large chunk of it takes place in the back room of the ChickWich, a set that's expertly shot despite its dull interiors. Conversations usually happen over the phone, and characters never handle their problems with shouting matches. And yet this movie is really, really disturbing.
Discussing the plot would be a sin against the unique experience offered by Compliance, but praise is due for three impressive performances. Ann Dowd, playing the manager of the ChickWich in questin, takes her naive character to the very brink of her likability, pushing the audience to turn on her, yet become fascinated with her submission to power (she's the essence of Compliance in a bottle). Vulnerability is presented powerfully by Dreama Walker, and Pat Healy (who pulls a complete turn-around from this year's earlier The Innkeepers) makes you feel quite uncomfortable with his casual prank-calling character.
Usually when movies frustrate us, it’s due to their quality. Characters do dumb things, stories take strange turns, and you just want to reach into the screen and fix the rampant stupidity that seems to be infecting everyone in Movie World. Compliance is a unique film in that it uses this factor of frustration from stupidity for the benefit of its story’s effect. As we watch the absurd events of this story play out, we can’t help but watch, even though they force us to instinctively roll in our seat, sigh loudly, or both. This movie does an expert job of smartly portraying an event in which good-hearted people naively do what is worst. The story in Compliance infuriates you to almost no end – and that’s why the film that tells it is so great. It’s the smartest movie you’ll ever want to strangle.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10