Now See This – Compliance

Posted: September 9, 2012 in Movies, Now See This
Tags: , , , , , ,

Because some things demand your immediate attention

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Compliance (w & d by Craig Zobel)

**** of 5 stars

A crew of fast-food restaurant employees show up for their shift. They spend their first moments at work catching up with each other & gossiping about their co-workers and significant others. Things get busy as the lunch crowd shows up. The manager steps into her office to take a phone call. It’s the police. They are with a woman who claims a cashier on duty stole money from her purse and there is surveillance footage to corroborate her story. The officer asks the supervisor to detain the employee until he can arrive on the scene. The confused young girl is taken to the office and is told of the charges against her. She professes innocence. And that’s when things get really interesting.

Writer/Director Craig Zobel creates in these first few scenes a sense of everyday mundanity that cleverly hides the dark and disturbing places the film, based on a true story, will ultimately go. He works with a stellar cast led by Ann Dowd and Dreama Walker (far removed from her role in ABC’s occasionally amusing Don’t Trust the B*tch in Apt 23) who play respectively the manager, Sarah, and the accused, Becky.

Sarah is harried. Officer Daniels has kept her on the phone while he performs a search of the cashier’s home. Pulled between the drama unfolding with Becky and her need to be on the restaurant floor, she is having difficulty finding anyone who is willing to acquiesce to Daniels’ (voiced and portrayed with icy cold condescension and confidence by Pat Healy) increasingly odd requests in interrogating the young woman and locating the missing money.

Sarah calls her fiancé Van (Bill Camp) to watch over the girl and to follow the lawman’s orders over the phone until he can get there. Van takes to this duty with great ease and it is in his actions in response to Daniels’ requests that the movie takes a nightmarish turn.

I knew that the film was based on a true story and was even slightly familiar with the incident that inspired it. However, as I watched, I kept telling myself that surely these events had been exaggerated for dramatic effect. I was shocked when I read the Wikipedia entry and discovered that Zobel had taken no such liberties.

The movie is disturbing and true. There’s nothing exploitative about it. Any violence is only suggested and nudity is used sparingly for effect. The director shows the viewer what happened in all it’s unvarnished ugliness. And like a knuckle punch to the arm that leaves a deep bruise, that ugly truth will linger with you long after you’ve seen it.

Compliance is playing in limited engagements around the country. Hopefully, it will open wider near you. If it does, I highly recommend you check it out.

[Editor’s Note: Please wait to read the Wiki entry until you’ve seen the movie. After that, check out the entry on something called The Milgram Experiment. It goes a long way to perhaps explaining how so may people could make the many poor decisions that allowed this situation to get so out of hand]

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