Many great films get passed over at the box office for a variety of reasons. Thankfully, Netflix can save a film’s overall reputation by offering bored college students the opportunity to jump start its fame. One such film that got screwed out of the recognition it deserved from the box office is “Compliance,” a film that probably didn’t see popularity because of its controversial nature.
At a fictional fast food chain location, Becky (Dreama Walker, TV’s “Don’t Trust the B– in Apartment 23”) is accused of theft by a man who claims to be a police officer over the phone. Manager Sandra (Ann Dowd, “Side Effects”) skeptically obeys the man’s instructions as he tells her to search through Becky’s things and keep her in the store’s office. Eventually, the orders become more demanding, and Sandra is forced to divide her attention between Becky and the evening rush.
The man convinces Sandra that Becky is instrumental in a larger investigation and that keeping her at the restaurant is vital to his department’s plans. What the restaurant workers don’t know is that on the other end of the line is a man playing with them for his own amusement. When Sandra eventually asks her fiance to keep an eye on Becky while she tends to customers, the man on the line uses his authority to change Becky’s life forever.
Through a series of maniacal head games played out by the fake cop, Becky is forced to strip, undergo a cavity search and eventually perform sexual acts – disguised as “rewards” – on Sandra’s fiance. The fake cop uses fear of punishment to scare Becky into complying with obscure and degrading orders.
“Compliance” acts as an explanation for how authority can be taken too far and can manipulate the psyche. These normal people are thrown into a seemingly practical situation. An employee is accused of stealing by a police officer and the manager wants to help the investigation in any way possible. But at what point does the clout of the supposed title of “officer” end and morality take over?
The craziest part of “Compliance” is that it is based on real events that happened at a McDonald’s in Kentucky and similar phone pranks reported all over the country. There is even surveillance footage of everything that happened in the Kentucky incident. It is eerie how well “Compliance” captures the air of the footage and the overall presentation of the film gives viewers breadth to contemplate each character’s actions.
The film boasts riveting performances from its ensemble cast. While Dowd outshines most of the other actors with strong focus, Walker shows her flexibility in “Compliance.” She breaks away from her role as a comedy star on ABC to portray a scared, tortured teenager on the big screen. The cast is small enough to keep track of everyone’s motives and concerns and no one aspect is unimportant as the story escalates to Becky’s rape.
The brutally slow pace of the film combines brilliant cinematography to depict the grueling ordeal. The audience is given enough time to watch the wheels in each character’s brain work on a new set of orders, beckoning the question: “What would you do in this situation”?
While the subject matter is raw and unforgiving, “Compliance” is a great escape from the norm with stunning performances and solid production quality. Instead of aimlessly reading Wikipedia articles to pass the time, audiences can turn to “Compliance” to learn about a different side of the human psyche.