Watching More Movies: Authority Rules In ‘Compliance’
For about a year, I swore off reading any movie news. I felt I was too immersed in every detail of any film I was interested in and it left my enjoyment of each anticipated movie lacking once I saw it. During this time, I wondered how I was supposed to know what movies I wanted to see in the first place. The big movies I’d already been aware of, but what about the smaller ones? I decided I’d at least watch trailers. They’d give me a sense of whether I wanted to see something or not. About a month ago (long after my year off ended), I saw the trailer for “Compliance”. I’d never heard anything about it, nor knew anyone involved. But, the trailer did exactly what it was supposed to do, it hooked me.
“Compliance” is based on a real event, which the end of the film mentions was actually one of only 70 similar instances across the nation in a span of about a decade. Becky (Dreama Walker) is a server at a fast food restaurant called ChickWich. Her manager, Sandra (Ann Down), gets a phone call from a police officer, saying he has a patron with him, accusing a server of having stolen money from her purse. The officer gives a description of the server that matches Becky and asks Sandra to bring Becky back into the office for interrogation. Except he won’t be the one interrogating her. He instructs Sandra to do so.
It was obvious from the trailer this phone call was from someone only impersonating a police officer and I wonder how long it would have taken to figure out if I hadn’t known beforehand. It’s curious the film is nearly forty minutes into its runtime before it reveals the call is truly a prank and from a disturbed individual and not from an officer of the law (not that those two things don’t coincide from time to time). But, because you know it’s a prank, whenever you figure it out, it’s definitely an exercise in frustration, much like I felt with the Italian “classic” “Bicycle Thieves,” in which the main character gets a job that requires owning a bicycle, which he’s pawned and spends the length of the film trying to retain it. “Just borrow one,” you want to shout.
In addition to being an exercise in audience frustration, it’s a psychological look at what people will do when in the midst of authority, similar to the “The Stanford Experiment.” While some might feel frustrated, I never once felt I was in the hands of anyone but a fantastic craftsman in writer/director, Craig Zobel. He makes the camera shy away in the most sensitive of story areas and he keeps the camera trained in spots that ratchet up the tension perfectly. A disciple of David Gordon Green, I’m very intrigued by what he does next. I’m glad the trailer was good enough to hook me.