Compliance (2012) (DVD)

complianceYes. People are this stupid. Just to answer the question you’ll be asking yourself over and over while watching “Compliance,” one of the most controversial movies of 2012. ¬†Supposedly a film that inspired one woman to slap her knees, shout “Oh come on!” and storm out of the theaters, director Craig Zobel’s infuriating dramatic thriller is a film that draws inadvertent parallels to Abu Ghraib. Where most of the armed officials who took part in the humiliation and torture of prisoners on the bases that they were merely following orders, “Compliance” sheds the light on a day in a fast food restaurant where a young girl was subjected to humiliating and degrading acts of torture and pain on the bases that folks were merely following orders.

In the final scene, a police officer asks pretty much everyone involved what the audience will be screaming at the screen. “Why at, any point, did you just say no?” Centering on fast food restaurant Chickwich during an incident involving a freezer that has ruined batches of bacon and meat for the upcoming rush for the weekend, Ann Dowd gives a wonderful performance as Sandra, the regional manager who begins to interrogate everyone about their involvement in incident. What’s implied through small moments of dialogue and interplay that reveal more about the characters than blatant exposition tends to do. Sandra is about to be married to a man with the tendency to gamble, drink, and cheat, and in spite of the fact she’s having a tough time breaking him out of his vices, she’s ready to marry him begrudgingly.

Meanwhile, she often has to deal with younger workers of the restaurant that draw his eye, including the very attractive Becky. When Sandra reveals a telephone call one afternoon from a police officer that one of the workers at Chickwich has been stealing money, events transform from unusual to absolutely horrific. “Compliance” is sadly based on true events, which is absolutely mind blowing considering the lengths many of the individuals in the put poor Becky through when threatened by the officer over the phone. Becky becomes the sacrificial lamb for pretty much everyone in the restaurant, as Sandra appeals to the officer over the phone seeking his unusual approval as his tasks for her become ever more humiliating and degrading for Becky, who is eventually locked in the back room and prevented from even peeing. The punishment toward Becky becomes ever more disturbing as the story progresses as, implied through director Zobel’s narrative of the events depicted, seem to be intent on punishing Becky for being desirable and often times very attractive to her co-workers.

It becomes ever more apparent throughout the narrative that the officer over the phone is nowhere near resembling an actual officer, as director Zobel presents ambiguous hints of the caller’s intentions, and then slowly unfolds the layers of the antagonist to reveal that there may or may not be any rhyme or reason toward any of these actions. The element of the film that will astound viewers and fuel many conversations, is why didn’t anyone figure out what was happening? Why did Becky adhere to every single act of torment that was inflicted upon her so willingly? Why didn’t anyone decide that this was an idiotic scenario and no actual officer works in this manner? Most importantly, did Sandra have it out for Becky for being much more nubile and attractive while she was stuck in a potentially dead end marriage? “Compliance” often seems to resort to unusual measures to shock the audience, but once you delve deeper, it’s utterly awe inspiring that these events actually occurred, and in many places around the country.

What is it about human beings that we simply have to take orders, no matter how absurd? Why do we have to ridicule one another or ourselves just to garner a sense of approval from an authority figure? “Compliance” is an often thought provoking and insatiably despicable glimpse at humanity’s common sense and lack thereof, and it’s one you won’t soon forget. For the DVD release, there’s a two minute “Behind the Scenes” with interviews with the cast, all of which is extremely short. There’s the four minute “AXS TV: A Look at Compliance” a promotional video for “Compliance,” and the theatrical trailer. If anything, director Craig Zobel’s “Compliance” may just inspire viewers to get up and research this film. Since at no point is it remotely logical that something this moronic could ever have happened. And yet it did. With great performances from Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, and Pat Healy, this is a thriller worthy of a viewing, and a shower to cleanse yourself, afterward.