Dreama Walker submits in Compliance.
COMPLIANCE (Craig Zobel). 90 minutes. Opens Friday (August 10). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNNN
Craig Zobel's tightly wound thriller, Compliance, explores the banality of evil - complete with a drive-thru.
Inspired by true events, the film is set in a fast food restaurant that soon becomes a panopticon-like prison when a mystery caller claiming to be a police officer gets the manager (Ann Dowd), to detain Becky (Dreama Walker), a young female employee. The situation rapidly worsens, throwing us into the dark corners of the human psyche and raising questions of obedience, free will and our everyday acts of compliance.
The genius of Zobel's film is its focus on the crime rather than the investigation, forcing the audience to sit through (and become implicated in) Becky's detention and eventual sexual assault. While the film is largely confined to a storage room at the back of the restaurant, Compliance never feels stagnant, relentlessly moving toward its climax. Much like the characters, the audience is helplessly strung along. Shot in tight and medium frames, the film's style increases the claustrophobia onscreen.
While the conclusion feels rushed, failing to delve into a deeper critique of contemporary American society, Walker and Dowd's performances ground the film in a complex moral ambiguity that is wisely never fully resolved.