Friday, 14 August 2015


Before Compliance starts we are told that none of the events in the film are exaggerated and that they all happened. This makes the next ninety minutes incredibly unbearable for the audience, as what unravels on the screen is a grotesque depiction of our fear of human conflict coupled with crippling fear of authority's power over us. It's no surprise then that when Craig Zobel's film first screened at Sundance Film Festival it had it's fair share of attendees who walked out of the screening claiming it was glamourising violence against women.

The film tells the true story of an incident which took place in 2004 in a McDonald's in Kentucky. Zobel switches the fast food chain from McDonald's to a fictional ChickWich where Sandra (Ann Dowd), the manager of the fast food chain, receives a call from a man who says he is Officer Daniels and claims that one of her employees, Becky (Dreama Walker), has stolen money from a customer. When questioned Becky claims to be innocent but Daniels persists making Sandra query her employee pushing her to do unimaginable things.

Zobel's masterstroke is creating a sense of claustrophobia by keeping the film restrained by the constraints of the restaurant's office. The small setting creates some intense, uncomfortable viewing that slowly leads up to a truly unbearable finale that will leave you questioning your actions in the same position. Yet, once the film is free of these constraints it doesn't quite know how to bring the film to a close and the pacing that Zobel expertly crafted beforehand quickly falls by the way side. The investigation into Officer Daniels takes all of five minutes and the director spends little time concentrating the story on Becky once she is free. It's disappointing then that a film that works so hard in the first two acts trips and stumbles in it's third. Zobel loses his concentration as the film works towards it's finale. The director shifts his focus from the victim to her perpetrator causing the third act to jar with the previous two. As disappointing as it may be Zobel has still created an important film that wrestles with questions of authority and power yet never reaching to be the film it should be.


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