Film review: Compliance (15)


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The Independent Culture

Craig Zobel's drama, allegedly "inspired by true events", is a banal nightmare about coercion and gullibility.

The setting is a fast-food chicken joint in Ohio, where the manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) receives a phonecall from a police officer claiming that one of her staff, Becky (Dreama Walker), has stolen money from a customer's purse. He asks Sandra to detain and then strip-search her, drawing in other members of staff as accomplices.

The audience discovers early on that this is a hoax call, and we wait for Sandra, or Becky, or someone, to challenge him: but they never do, and the prank escalates steadily, sickeningly.

One of the creepiest aspects of it is the way the caller (played by Pat Healy) alternately coaxes and intimidates Sandra, who seems to half-enjoy this sudden inexplicable burden of responsibility. It's discomforting, and superbly acted – and also maddening.

The call, lasting for more than an hour, feels like watching a schoolboy sadist maiming a puppy. There's not enough light and shade to its portrayal of dumbstruck obedience.

The "true events" may be unimpeachable, but the film is heavy-handed and patronising in its indictment of human credulity.