Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Tue Mar 19
In the early part of the last decade, over 70 phone calls were made to supermarkets and fast food restaurants across the US. The MO was always the same: the caller would claim to be a police officer, allege that an employee was guilty of theft, and request her colleagues to carry out a strip search. The manager on duty would comply. After all, this was a cop calling. But on at least one occasion – in the Mount Washington, Kentucky branch of McDonald’s in 2004 – the caller’s demands went much further. ‘Compliance’ dramatises these events in clear, clinical detail, painting a stark, devastating portrait of human susceptibility in the face of an unseen authority.
Dreama Walker plays Becky, the young checkout girl at a ‘Chickwich’ franchise, who puts up scant resistance when store manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) calls her into the back office on the orders of Officer Daniels (Pat Healy) – who is actually a quiet suburban father hundreds of miles away. The chain of events that unfold strain believability, but writer-director Craig Zobel’s script hews disturbingly close to the facts.
This approach doesn’t entirely work: although the overall mood of deepening moral compromise is compellingly sustained, Zobel does struggle to sell some of the later scenes. Part of the problem is the casting: while Dowd and Healy are flawless, Walker seems a little too headstrong as the abused Becky.
But this doesn’t stop ‘Compliance’ from being a riveting, horrifying film, shot through with beautifully observed moments of unwelcome truth. It’s as much a critique of the enclosed systems of modern life – small towns, local authorities, dead-end jobs with meaningless heirarchies – as it is of sick individuals with cellphones.
Author: Tom Huddleston