Compliance is one of the most compelling and intense films I’ve seen in a long time and takes place at a fast food joint which, to me, feels like the equivalent of a shitty Little Chef I used to work at.
At the same time as having Quality Control coming to visit on a busy Friday night, they’re also down nearly $1500 worth of stock because the freezer door wasn’t closed properly the night before, so the pressure is really on Sandra (Ann Dowd, bottom pic), a typical overbearing middle-aged manageress.
Then, in the midst of a busy shift, Sandra takes a call from policeman Officer Daniels (Pat Healy), who describes waitress Becky (Dreama Walker, below) and says she stole money from a customer’s purse earlier on in the shift and that they will be in soon to see her. After speaking to both of them, he then asks Sandra to search her pockets and confiscate her mobile phone, before things get much darker.
The premise is that the caller is bogus and he is very manipulative in getting both Sandra and Becky to almost admit to things that never happened, leading to some incredibly degrading scenes for everyone involved including fellow supervisor Marti (Ashlie Atkinson), sandwich maker Kevin (Philip Ettinger), handyman Harold (Stephen Payne) and Sandra’s fiancee Van (Bill Camp) who go along with it under the assumption that it’s had the backing of their regional manager. How do they know? Because Officer Daniels has told them so…
Compliance has such a simple premise but one that’s immensely effective and, given that you know it’s based on true events – as is alighted to at the start, it makes you wince all the more as the apparent theft investigation continues. The music helps build the atmosphere and the tension is gripping. I’m also stunned as to how well executed this simple premise is, which results in one of the most compelling and intense films I’ve seen in a long time and which I would heartily recommend to anyone who appreciates great writing, directing and acting in equal measure. Full credit to the cast and crew involved.
The only point where the film tends to lose it slightly is in not finding the way to end it right, given how this isn’t just them that this situation has happened to. It almost gets to the right point, but then derails in the last few minutes, but everything up until that point is 100% captivating.
Running time: 90 minutes
Released: March 22nd 2013
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (HDCAM)
Director: Craig Zobel
Producers: Tyler Davidson, Sophia Lin, Lisa Muskat, Theo Sena and Craig Zobel
Screenplay: Craig Zobel
Music: Heather McIntosh
Sandra: Ann Dowd
Becky: Dreama Walker
Officer Daniels: Pat Healy
Kevin: Philip Ettinger
Marti: Ashlie Atkinson
Harold: Stephen Payne
Van: Bill Camp
Detective Neals: James McCaffrey
Officer Morris: Desmin Borges
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.