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Compliance (2012)

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Compliance (2012) – When a prank caller convinces a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee, no-one is left unharmed.

I have been wanting to offer my thoughts on this film for a while now, yet it’s proven to be a tricky one to write about. I know my good friend Eric is having the same dilemma, so I’ll try and beat him to it and give you my take. Compliance takes its plot from 70 cases preceding 2004, in which a man who worked as a correctional officer called fast-food restaurants pretending to be a real police officer who was trying to apprehend a thief. He would order the managers of various restaurants to strip search a female employee, or commit far worse acts. The actual events can be seen on Wikipedia by clicking this link: strip search prank call scam and the specific event in question in this movie is the Mount Washington, Kentucky, incident at a McDonald’s restaurant.

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As for the movie itself, Compliance, by writer/director Craig Zobel, is set at fictional fast food restaurant ChickWich. At this mid-America fast-food outpost, restaurant manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) is having a bad night even before the phone call comes. Police officer Daniels (Pat Healy – who incidentally I preferred in this role rather than his appearance in The Innkeepers), as he identifies himself, claims pretty teenage counter girl Becky (Dreama Walker) was seen stealing money from a purse.

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He instructs Sandra to take Becky into a storage closet. Overwhelmed by her managerial responsibilities, Sandra complies with the officer’s orders to detain Becky. He then uses the phone to instruct everyone — Sandra, Becky, co-workers, even Sandra’s fiancé — to pile on the humiliation, until an actual sexual assault happens.

I found myself at first watching and laughing at how ridiculous this all was, and when the officer was instructing them over the phone, I can 100% say I would have put the phone down. We all would, right? Yet I had to keep reminding myself that this was REAL, and happened to varying degrees 70 other times!! Every event in this movie was from actual police documents and evidence, and some were even caught on video. It sounds crazy that people would actually fall for this, and not just one person, but it goes to show the lengths some people will go to when dealing with law enforcement. Whilst I can sit here and say there is no way I would fall for this, unless I’m in that position, how can I say for sure? I mean, I definitely wouldn’t……would I? Would you?

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I can’t really rate this as a proper movie in some regards, as it sounds so ridiculous and far-fetched, yet whilst some reviewers out there have bashed this not knowing it was from true events, the normal things I would want to talk to you about don’t apply here. Plot wise, it is what it is. A girl, made to do humiliating things by a voice over the phone. Why she does it when she blatantly knows she is innocent and hasn’t stolen anything is beyond me. The managers husband even gets involved and that’s where the sexual act comes into play. We don’t see anything too graphic, this is not that kind of movie and despite seeing Becky naked it never glorifies any of it, and the act happens off-screen.

Everyone seems to rave about Ann Dowd’s performance as Sandra, she even picked up some awards for it, but for me the main star on show here was Dreama Walker. Whilst I couldn’t believe her character did the things she did, she acted the hell out of the role in a terribly naive and innocent (gullible?) way. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her, as I hate to see people taken advantage of.

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Compliance isn’t for everyone. Zobel’s competently crafted film follows just one example of a call to its unhappy and occasionally hard-to-watch conclusion. It’s a documentary ultimately, just shown to us like a movie. It can’t be frowned upon for being ridiculous because whilst it obviously is, this isn’t just some movie plot trying to get you to believe them with ludicrous acts; this is all straight out of police records. It simply has to be seen, if only to highlight the real life cases the movie here shows us.

As a side note, Compliance actually opens with the information regarding the Milgram Experiments of the 1960s, in which ordinary members of the public willingly electrocuted their peers on the bidding of men with white coats and clipboards. If you are interested in the psychological side of life, and true events like this, Compliance also reminded me of the Stanford prison experiment which I learned about through another film Das ExperimentI haven’t reviewed that film yet, but the links I included here are pretty insightful and I always enjoy a true story. Hopefully this may interest a few of you anyway.

Ratings08

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66 Comments

  1. Nice one Tyson. I’ve been really interested in seeing this as I’ve read about Milgram, Zimbardo and all that lot. Dunno when we’re actually getting it over here but I’ll try and track it down.

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    • Thanks mate. Yeah those cases are pretty interesting so this was just another type of study. Think it hit select cinemas in march, I got a DVD import towards the end of last year. Just took a while to write about……. 🙂

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  2. Nicely written. I liked it, although I can absolutely understand why people would hate it. Such is the nature of cinema sometimes.

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    • Thanks buddy. Yeah people walked out and all that kind of thing. I wanted to see how it all played out, and whilst enjoy maybe isn’t the word for my feelings, I did like it. Or something like that?!

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  3. Ok I’ve had this popping up on Netflix for some time and have intended to give it a watch. Sounds worth a look. Good review dude!

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  4. theipc

     /  April 15, 2013

    LOL – I think whatever I wrote about this in “Marcy My…” will probably do for me : )

    Good one, Captain!

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  5. theipc

     /  April 15, 2013

    “Marcy May…” that is : )

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  6. Good review. This is a really tricky one to talk about. I’m not sure how much I liked it! When it finished I felt pretty traumatised, over the next couple of days I fell back on how stupid it seemed, and then I switched again when I started reading up about the true stories. And I’m still not sure what I think of it as a film!

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    • Thanks buddy. Very tricky. Ridiculous yet I want to recommend people watch it…….has to be seen to be believed, even then I’m still not sure how people fell for this. This world is a peculiar place 🙂

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  7. The concept seemed so surreal, but then to hear there have been dozens of similar events made this movie creepier for me. Good review.

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    • Creepy is the word! I still can’t believe so many people were tricked but thats what makes it so compelling. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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  8. Yeah this is a tough one to rate. The biggest example of gullibility. No offense to the victims.

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  9. I’m a bit of a psychology nut so I was really interested in seeing this one. There was actually an episode of Law and Order SVU that featured this story (also had robin Williams guest starring, lol), the thought of an entire movie made out of it seemed like it would work out really well. Great review

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    • Robin Williams? Odd choice, ill have to try hunt that down.

      Hope you get chance to see this, sounds like it could be right up your alley. Cheers buddy 🙂

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  10. Good review. I learned about the true events in my psychology class once and the stanford prison experiment. Its shocking how people respond to authority.

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    • Cheers Issy. Yeah I’m always fascinated to read and watch things like this. As you say, authoritative figures, people in lab coats etc seems to lull people into doing anything.

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  11. I thought this movie was ridiculous sounding and that it didn’t even deserve to be made, but I’ve actually heard a ton of great things about it, including your own seal of approval. So weird…

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    • Very weird. It shouldn’t work and it sounds insane, but to have succeeded so many times is frightening. You should give it a watch. And nice to see you back here dude 🙂

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  12. The premise just sounds so ludicrous but even crazier that it’s based on a true story!

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    • That’s what makes it so surreal, sounds like it would never happen but it has, so many times. Well worth a watch if you ever get chance Ruth. Cheers 🙂

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  13. I’ve been recommended this a couple times before. I can’t believe it’s based on a true story. Nice review.

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    • I know, shocking how many times these people were duped. Well worthy of a watch so you can be as shocked as I was! Cheers buddy 🙂

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  14. I enjoyed the way Zobel stuck to his guns to make this movie an uncomfortable experience to watch and I also found myself repeating over and over that these people were morons and I would have hung up the phone during this course of watching this. It is a hard movie to sit through just based on the skeevy factor.

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    • Definitely uncomfortable and I was muttering the same things. Just sounds so laughable but freaky that it all happened. Poor, gullible girls……..cheers Derek 🙂

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  15. Nice review man. I feel similar about this to you. I reviewed it as well, and just like you it is a difficult film to discuss. It was one of the most deeply unsettling experiences I have had in a cinema and I think that is definitely intentional. You are spot on in my book about Dreama Walker too, I think hers is by far and away the best performance in the film.

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    • Cheers my friend. I did find it tricky to discuss. Definitely unsettling, and just so weird. Glad you liked Walker’s performance as much as I did. Whilst the manager is getting all the praise, I just wasn’t sure she was anywhere near Walkers level. 🙂

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  16. The a whole psychology behind people’s willingness to be blindly led by authority figures is kinda mind-boggling when you think about it. It’s really fascinating stuff, right behind how amazing it is when you add up how collectively stupid people can be. (Once in a while, I still get those Nigerian “You’ve Won a Brazillion dollars!” scam emails. Those actually work?) I’m with you; I’m not getting led around by a telephone.

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    • I know, so many times I’ve been a millionaire or approached by a prince. Yet there must be people that fall for it. As I said, I can’t believe I wouldn’t just hang up. But I imagine those people duped would of always thought that. Weird, weird things. Anyway, thanks for stopping by buddy 🙂

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  17. Abbi

     /  April 16, 2013

    Sounds really interesting. The only thing I can think of similar (and it’s not really similar) is Bully, where the storyline is so ludicrous that you think whoever made it up must have lost the plot… but it’s based on a true story.

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    • I’ve heard of that but not seen it. Strange really how true life plays out sometimes. Not something you’d fall for you reckon? As a guy im confident I would hang up, but I now doubt myself lol!!

      Cheers Abbi 🙂

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  18. Good review, Tyson, but what a horribly strange situation. I just followed your link and read the story about the McDonald’s incident…simply unbelievable. And what’s cool is, they actually tracked the guy down and caught him…and then he wasn’t charged! Fascinating…I’ll have to check this movie out, although I’m sure it’s going to make me very uncomfortable.

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    • Cheers Todd. I know, fascinating read and watch but very creepy. The hoaxer really did get away with ruining people’s lives in some cases. Unbelievable but true. Weird 🙂

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  19. Yeah, that was the thing about this movie that pissed me off… The people were just so goddamn stupid, but then you realize this really happened. So, it shows you how people can be so naive… And or awful. Good review, man.

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  20. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, reality is stranger than fiction. Good review mate!

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  21. davecrewe

     /  April 16, 2013

    I really didn’t enjoy this film. It’s all well-and-good to base a film in reality, but you can’t just have suspension of disbelief through “This really happened! Kind of…” It didn’t capture the sense of claustrophobia and stress in a retail environment as it needed to, and basically the way the story was established and the characters were acted/written it wasn’t actually believable. I know this kind of thing happened – but I very much doubt it was the way it was presented in “Compliance.” Which is a shame, because I think there’s an interesting story there.

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    • I don’t know Dave, I thought they took it pretty much verbatim from police records and conversations. Regardless, whilst I was like you and struggled to suspend my belief, I seemed to take more away from it in terms of liking what I saw.

      As you say though, the true story is the most interesting point and it seems to have made quite a divisive film. Thanks for sharing your thoughts buddy, always appreciated. 🙂

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  22. Nice review. I honestly don’t know if I would hang up the phone or not, but there has to be a moment where you say enough is enough. If you want to do it, come down here and do it.

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  23. I can’t help but feel this is more evidence to my belief that there are too many stupid people roaming around loose. I remember the original event and thought at the time “Morons!! They are morons!” I hang up on everybody who isn’t a friend or one of my doctors whose identity I recognize. Everyone else I presume to be a scammer. If not, they will call back. Call me cynical.

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    • Haha, far too many stupid people! Sometimes its better to be safe and cynical. At least it stops this kind of event happening to you! Thanks Marilyn 🙂

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  24. I would normally have overlooked this one but the plot is quite intriguing. All the more for being based on actual events. I might just check this one out.

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  25. Great write up – I need to see it out of curiosity …

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  26. this film served more as a public service announcement (however awkward) than as a movie per se. It gets its point across I think but was rather dull altogether. I understand how it was difficult to summarize your thoughts into a review. Not even sure what I’d give this one.

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    • Dull? Wow, guess we differ a lot here. Beauty of discussion though 🙂

      Tricky to write about as it sounds so surreal. Thanks for stopping by.

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  27. Wordschat

     /  April 17, 2013

    Another good review Tyson. Agreed it was hard to review. On one hand I wanted to smack friends for laughing during it as they thought how gullible the people were yet getting that pressure to comply would be overpowering. The perp was a master manipulator.

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    • Thanks mate. I’ll be checking your work out tomorrow after I’ve got some sleep. I imagine if a policeman asked you to get naked you wouldn’t put up much of a fight? 😉 LOL. Sorry 🙂

      Hard not to feel they were dumb and gullible, but 70 cases is mental! Thanks matey 🙂

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  28. I watched a Dateline or 20/20 special on this when the incident became public… just absolutely flabbergasted at what went on. I guess it just goes to show how mindless some people can really be… not just going along with the outrageous orders, but even humoring the caller to begin with. How ignorant can people be? No police officer is ever going to call in telling you to detain somebody, that’s not how they work. In the McDonald’s case, the manager, et al, wound up serving prison time for their parts, as they should have. (There wasn’t a mention of a sexual assault, so I think that part was probably exaggerated.)

    In this case, I think the whole “based on a true story” aspect would make it harder for me to enjoy this film. I mean, if it weren’t, it’d be pretty unbelievable. But even knowing that it is, it’s still pretty hard to believe.

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    • Yep, your opinion is spot on, I tried to be more forgiving but its hard to justify and accept they carried out those decisions.

      I think the sexual acts did happen though, I cant remember now but positive it was more than one incident also. I could be mistaken.

      Totally unbelievable, if this was just a movie I would of given it 1/10. As its true, it makes it more shocking and you cant blame plot holes or ridiculousness as such like you can with a film.

      Thanks for the comment Morgan, much appreciated.

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  29. Great review, Tyson. This is one ofthe 2012 films that was talked about during award season that I just didn’t watch for some reason. I plan on doing that soon, though. The premise is fascinating.

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    • Thanks Fernando. Hope you like it, so surreal and might make you laugh how ridiculous it all is, but frightening that its real!! 🙂

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  30. I’ve seen human stupidity and the lengths of it many times in my life so I had no problem with the reality in this movie. Given that most of the people are scared of the police officers only added to that and if someone is naive or just dumb to begin with it’s a tragedy waiting to happen. The movie honestly scared me that things like this happen.

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    • Definitely scary that these things have happened as often as they have. As you say, people seem to be scared of law enforcement and it made them do insane things!

      Thanks Sati 🙂

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  31. Very nice review!

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