Star Rating:


Director: Craig Zobel

Actors: Ann Dowd, Pat Healy, Dreama Walker

Release Date: Monday 30th November -0001

Genre(s): Crime, Drama, Thriller

Running time: 90 minutes

It's easy to sit in a dark theatre and scoff at the silly actions of movie characters. It makes us feel smart. But there's no such feeling in Compliance - just a grubbiness that's hard to shake off afterwards. Before you say no one could be this stupid, these events are based on numerous true stories.

Fast food restaurant manager Sandra (Dowd) receives a phone call from a police officer (Healy) telling her that an employee of hers, Becky (Walker), has been accused of stealing from a customer's handbag, and she is instructed to help with the investigation. Taken into the storeroom and informed that she will be forced to spend a night in jail if she doesn't submit to the officer's over-the-phone demands, Becky is coerced into increasingly humiliating acts at the hands of her co-workers.

An exploration of the Milgram and Stanford Prison experiments which studied people's willingness to follow orders despite the natural instinct to do the opposite, Compliance is a difficult movie to endure. What it has to say about human nature, about our willingness to submit to control, how manipulated we are by threats and compliments, and why we get kicks administrating all of these, speaks volumes. There's a voyeurism, bordering on exploitive, that's unsettling too. Grubby indeed.

But Compliance's difficulty also lies elsewhere. Writer-director Craig Sobel allows things to get too fantastic too quickly and while he does eventually introduce the much-needed ‘Waaaaaaait, a second character' he arrives too late; if the cop's strange instructions were teased out a little longer, proceedings would have been more plausible. Sobel's introductory scene for Sandra is a major one - she takes the abusive attitude from a delivery guy to highlight her malleable personality - but the scene isn't strong enough to segue into what follows. The pseudo Psycho ending, where the psychology of it all is spelled out, is unneeded too.

But Compliance is never dull and Sobel, despite the one room setting, injects developments with a creeping tension and rising dread. Walker, best known for the frothy Don't Trust The B**** In Apartment 23, chooses a brave role to kick-start her movie career. but it's Dowd's compliant middle-management normality that leaves the lasting impression.