Psychological chiller inspired by bizarre true events. Staff at a fast food restaurant find themselves exceeding legal and moral boundaries after a young female staff member is accused of theft... Now playing in limited release.
I thought I was desensitised to pretty much anything a movie screen could show me, as most of my generation would claim. However, Compliance slapped me in my ignorant face and reminded me what stomach-plummeting distress felt like.
When a fast-food manager tells one of her employees that an officer on the phone is accusing her of theft, the attractive teenage girl in question is then interrogated by her colleagues via over-the-phone commands. As these instructions become more disturbing, we witness how far ordinary people are willing to go to please an authority figure. It’s a frighteningly convincing display of the Milgram experiment placed in a sickening scenario, made even more horrific by the fact that it’s based on true events.
Ann Dowd delivers a stand-out performance as the overworked middle-aged manager (one that the Academy will fail to recognise). Two qualities make her character susceptible to the caller’s influence: her irritating arrogance and her longing to be appreciated by her peers. While the former prevents us from giving her our complete sympathy, the latter stops us from vilifying her as well. Dowd expertly maintains this balance, creating a fascinating moral ambiguity that lingers with you long after the film’s conclusion.
Some contrived dialog choices can break the film’s sense of reality, making you wonder “Why doesn’t he/she mention x?” These parts are few and far between, but they’re frustrating enough to take you momentarily out of the film.
Nevertheless, Compliance is a brilliant psychological thriller that I’d struggle to watch a second time. I haven’t been so tastefully disturbed by a movie for quite a while.