Compliance (2012) – Jumping Jack, Flash

Synopsis: When a prank caller convinces a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee, no-one is left unharmed. Based on true events.

My Take

There was a point about 60 minutes into Compliance when, after several moments of thinking “really? that happened? come on!”, that I truly believed Craig Zobel had taken liberties with a fascinating true story in the pursuit of shock value. It took me out of the moment and left me feeling cold to the story for the rest of the last 30 or so minutes.


The story of prank calls that led to a series of bizarre events at fast food restaurants and grocery stores across America was something I had heard snippets of but never any detail. When I heard Compliance would be a dramatisation of those events I was eager to see the thought process from the characters who found themselves embroiled in these weird games. So at that moment in Compliance where I couldn’t suspend my disbelief any further that people could be so easily manipulated into doing the most heinous things, I was disappointed that what I hoped would be an intriguing psychological thriller quickly turned into a grimy little exploitation picture. I had heard Compliance massively split opinion. During it’s festival circuit it led to mass walkouts and standing ovations. It’s a tough watch.

But, that is not to say that I didn’t still find myself completely engaged until the end.

The lead performances from Ann Dowd as the burger joint Asst Manager taken in for a sucker, Bill Camp as her fiancée and Dreama Walker (really Mr & Mrs Walker? Dreama? Really?) as the teenage victim at the centre of it are all fantastic. Walker gives off this terrible victimised ambivalence to the series of ever increasingly degrading acts she is subjected too that makes you want to reach in and shake her , screaming “dude, run away!!”.

Yet, it was only after I went and researched further into the actual events that inspired the movie that I was shocked to see that those moments actually unfolded as told. That the people at the heart of this horrible sick joke actually went through this. At times verbatim. I feel like I owe Zobel an apology. Compliance is a film that deserves a second viewing.

Conclusion: A dark and compelling movie that will leave you feeling cold for a while afterwards. Watch, research, and watch again. The second viewing will leave you feeling more disgusted than the first.

Verdict: 7/10 


Director/Writer: Craig Zobel – First notable credit. Did 2007 indie picture Great Wall of Sound. Is directing upcoming sci-fi movie Z For Zacharia with Toby Maguire.

Cast: Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, Bill Camp, Pat Healy



2 replies »

  1. Ok, good, you reviewed it because I couldn’t lol. My reaction was pretty much spot on with yours. This is extremely disturbing stuff that defies belief, but when you find out how much this guy did and that this all actually happened it makes your skin crawl. What is it about people that we so blindly accept things unquestioningly? That’s the question I took away from the film (which I watched at 3 am, also not an optimal choice). Deeply disturbing, but given what happened, necessarily so.

    • I’ll admit I found it hard to review until I realised I wanted to write about my feelings during and the subsequent realisation after the movie that it all happened as played out on screen. It was almost an unintentional twist to the movie, the “reveal” being how accurate the horrific nature of what happened was.

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