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The Best Films of 2016

Compliance (2012)


Year: 2012
Director: Craig Zobel
Cast: Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker
Region of Origin: U.S.
Rating: R
Time: 90 mins.

There are no cease to the power of film as they are intended to conjure even the deeply rooted fear, enthrallment, anger, and even inspiration in all of us. But no film has stirred more outspoken anger lately than the film Compliance. Craig Zobel's creation could well be debated for relentless hours if it is truly worthy or a piece of shit.

Compliance is based on true events about a prank caller who poses as a police officer, calls a fast food restaurant  and  convinces Sandra, the manager (Ann Dowd) to interrogate an innocent young employee, Becky, (Dreama Walker) of stealing money from a customer. Overwhelmed by her managerial duties on a hectic Friday night, she complies with the officer's order to detain Becky which quickly unravels into disturbing look at the lengths people will go when pressured by authority figures. 

From the beginning of the film, we are attacked with behemoth letters stating that the film is based on a true story tainting the mood for the scenes to come. I put up a post previously of the trailer and expressed my anxiety after watching the grueling clip. Immediately after, I googled the actual story and to my amazement, was taken aback by the extent this cruel and deceiving prank went to. I mean, this could possibly not be true, right? How could people be this stupid? Regardless, I desperately wanted to witness the unraveling of this tragic event to in order to see how Zobel would tell the seemingly impossible story. With sushi-cutting precision, he was able to build the chaotic atmosphere and characters without exploiting Becky under the progressively depressing events. 

Compliance was release only to a limited release at the Landmark theatre in LA. People were willing to pay $12.50 for the movie so I assume they already had previous knowledge of what to expect like I did. But while every single act was precisely according to the real story, it brought the daunting and horrifying reality that the people were more or less people we knew in real-life. Without scapegoating foreigners or criminals, these were regular average joes that followed authority without questioning the morality of the situation. This alone, angered many of the audience members. Some walked out, some bit their tongue and stayed. Viewers were outraged that Sandra and her fiancee (read more) could do such a thing. But the most disturbing thought is that in situations like this, they would probably do the same even if they think they wouldn't and they subconsciously know that which scares the hell out of them. Dowd is completely believable as the manager who just want to do what's right. Every hesitating expression to the wholly apathy for Becky was chilling to watch. It is a portrait of character study as people are willing to disregard their morals for selfish reasons and how the shocking reactions from both the female and male co-workers vary vastly from one another. Besides Sandra's fiancee, all the men workers who were ordered to watch Becky refused to be any part of the act. Whereas most of the female workers obliged making it apparent about the distinct societal roles they were embedded and expected to have. 


I received exactly what I bargained for knowing that I had already researched the actual occurrence and knew that this story would be remote when translated to the big picture. I went with my friend Michelle, and she felt cheated and abused. After the film finished, the man next to her exclaimed out loud "that was a movie?" What is there to expect but the cinematic version of this notorious story? And even though it was based on true events, it seemed too outlandish to actually be true that it translated to the audience to be unrealistic. Cinematic shots of close ups of the meat patty sizzling, foam bubbles, and customers eating was a route to create the atmosphere of the outside world to contrast the brutal dehumanizing act that was taking place only a few steps inside. Ironically, it also contributed to the de-crediting of the story, taking the audience out of the world he tried so hard to build. The most fascinating aspect of this film is not the content but the reaction it got from the outburst of hate to calm intense discussion of the film. Whichever it was, it brought unusual amount of  fervent emotion in the audience to speak their mind loud and mighty to further reason the action taken place in the film. Compliance is truly one film that will evoke strong emotions that they will continue to investigate through the internet, with friends, or even with themselves. B+


and if you're still not convinced of the story, watch the actual footage from the surveillance camera in the office where the most unforgivable and  despicable act took place. 

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