Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Release Review: Compliance (Craig Zobel, 2012)

Written and directed by Craig Zobel, Compliance premiered twelve months ago at the Sundance Film Festival. When a prank caller claiming to be a police officer convinces Sandra (Ann Dowd), a location manager at a fast food chain, that one of her register staff, Becky (Dreama Walker), has stolen money from a customer that evening; she complies with the caller’s requests without question (no matter how unlike protocol and inappropriate). Sandra is initially manipulated into keeping Becky under supervision in the back of the store, confiscating her possessions and ordering a strip search, but as Sandra enlists different supervisors, including her partner Van (Bill Camp), the procedure takes increasingly sinister turns.

What transpires in this film is inspired by true cases – and as the shocking stat reveal at the conclusion claims, not just one – meaning that this film can’t be ignored. Zobel, by bringing these baffling events to the screen, creates a confronting and fascinating experience. He builds a claustrophobic location and mounts tension with some inventive direction. If you know this prior to watching the film then I think it is easier to accept the actions of the characters. If you don’t, then it is very difficult to believe that these events took place and it is even hard to sympathise with the victims. This was my problem.

When I was watching Compliance I had to resist the urge to stop it. I got a sense of what was coming and feared for Becky. This is an extremely unsettling expose about our perception of authoritative hierarchy and how one can lose sight of their morals when their role is required to exceed their jurisdiction. Against better judgment, how far do you accept the orders of a perceived higher authority? With such a distressing moral dilemma at the core, Compliance has haunted audiences and if you have ever worked in customer service, will leave you wondering how you would handle such a situation. I feel I must warn you that this film is far from entertaining and will likely leave you squirming in your seat, and create a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Continue Reading at Graffiti With Punctuation.


  1. Nice review. It's a one-and-a-half hour of stress. Maybe it will leave the viewers very unpleasant, but for me that's the entertainment point of Compliance.

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