Tuesday, 4 September 2012

REVIEW: Compliance

A true story about how we are taught to respect authority and how far that can go ...

It's just a normal day at a US burger joint, then the phone goes and it's the police saying that one of their workers has stolen money from a customer. There's no officers available to come down and he asks the manager to search the girl ...

So begins a day that turns into a horrific sequence of events. The whole time I was watching it, I was thinking 'This is stupid, how can any of this be real? No-one would be that stupid' but lo and behold, if you look online you will see that every single thing that happens in the film, happened in real life. ABC even did a documentary on it and you can watch it all on security camera footage if you really wanted proof.

The film is superbly acted with a great cast. It's claustrophobic environment, and the tightness of the shots to heighten the emotional impact, combined with the brilliant pace of the dialogue makes for a horribly awkward, intense and disgusting experience that will stay with you for days. It's simplicity is it's greatest achievement and the juxtaposition of the people eating in the restaurant only a few mere metres away is always reminding you that this isn't a weird dream, it isn't some horrid Hostel like prison but that it occurred as 'real-life' was still taking place, normal families were just outside not knowing what was happening at the back.

The shots of the food slowly getting more disgusting as the events do, start to take on a different meaning. You might never be able to look at a straw in a cup the same way again for instance. The one long take from the police department for instance is a very clever, subtle way to let you into some story information without shoving it in your face. The subtle power plays that the caller manages to do, the way he enforces his authority every so often and the fact that this isn't even just for some sexual kick but perhaps for sick amusement, is a very smart way of bringing you into the action as well. It allows you to understand the situation more and perhaps see how this all was allowed to happen.

The characters also feel believable in an unbelievable situation. Ann Dowd is incredible as the middle aged female manager who hasn't really got much of a life, still feels awkward being around younger people and yet doesn't want to feel like an old dear. She clearly hasn't got a backbone and her conviction as she talks to her staff is lacking at best. They clearly have no respect for her and neither do the general public it seems. She's a wet busybody who thinks she's more important than she actually is. She's also incredibly stupid and naive which doesn't help her case. A telling scene is at the end when she is retelling the story, and the interviewer proves her wrong by showing her evidence, but she can't think of an answer. You can see the stupidity and sheer obnoxiousness of the woman shine through as she doesn't want to believe she's done something bad so instead she talks about New Orleans and the weather there, clearly not understanding about certain recent events there and portrays perfectly the small-minded rural America blinkered view of the world. Uneducated and a blind follower of any authority figure.

The film is extremely cleverly shot and scripted and put together very delicately. It could so easily look like a cheap uninspired piece, but instead it is a gripping piece of work that has worked its way up to one of my top films this year. I guarantee you will enjoy it and if you dig around further about what actually happened, I think you'll be even more shocked.

Rating: 9/10

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