Monday, January 14, 2013

Movie with Abe: Compliance

Directed by Craig Zobel
Released August 17, 2012 / DVD January 8, 2013

Recently arrived on DVD is the film that almost – and should have – earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination last week. “Compliance” is the subtle, quietly unsettling real-life story of a fast food restaurant manager manipulated by a man claiming to be a police officer into treating one of her employees as a suspect with no rights. Its title is perfectly descriptive, and this disturbing, well-constructed film does a terrific job of making its events feel horrifyingly real, inescapable and irreversible.

At the center of “Compliance” is Dreama Walker, whose performance as Becky, the lazy employee who finds herself the victim of the mystery caller’s prank, is a complete departure from her popular role as the bubbly June on ABC’s “Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23.” When Becky first appears on screen, she immediately gives off an air of indifference, and her lackadaisical attitude makes her later predicament all the more miserable. Becky’s temperament is contrasted sharply by that of Sandra, the manager who takes her job seriously and seems honored, and even bound by the expectations of her job, to have been chosen by the police officer on the phone to carry out justice.

“Compliance” proceeds along at a deliberately meticulous pace, trapping Becky in her unfortunate situation for scenes on end, as Sandra speaks to the alleged Officer Daniels and follows his every order, which include a strip search and bringing in various males to watch and further examine Becky while Sandra goes back to work. Each performance is carefully attuned to the film’s reality, and it’s hard to top Ann Dowd’s mesmerizing turn as the entirely compliant Sandra, taking Officer Daniels’ orders without question and deputizing herself to be their executioner. It’s a firm, focused, career-best performance from an actress who has been working hard in the industry for more than twenty-five years.

The mood of “Compliance” is marvelously established by the eerie, haunting score by Heather McIntosh, which emphasizes the simple disturbing nature of the film’s events. The sounds of fast food meat cooking on grills also provide a fitting soundtrack for the film’s setting and ground its events in their surroundings, which are populated by unknowing diners. “Compliance” succeeds as a character study and a thought-provoking thriller, and its final scene is gloriously understated, highlighting the shocking frequency with which this type of scenario occurs. This is an excellent cinematic interpretation of a real-life horror story.


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