It’s a difficult feat to make a film which is a cinematic immersion whilst also being an informative speech to audiences, perhaps the most poignant film to have done this is the shocking ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ which in some ways Compliance attempts to replicate, but unfortunately falls short.
Based on the disturbingly incredible true story, Compliance tells the story of a prank caller who rings up a fast food store and convinces the manager to interrogate a young innocent employee. As the ‘severity’ of the situation grows, events transpire to startling extents to the point of utter discomfort. If it wasn't for this films ‘true story’ element little would be foraged in the rubble to credit it, however as we are reminded at the start with pacey subtitles that ‘nothing has been exaggerated’ the film thrills to shock and disgust the audience showing the extent society goes to to conform to authority. The story may not have been exaggerated however no one can justify the speed and intensity that occurs in this film to transition to real events. With the films rapid pace working both for and against it, Compliance feels more like a reconstruction on ‘crimewatch’ rather than the tense drama that it should be and is for a minority of the films 90 minutes running time. The film almost becomes laughable at times when one wonders why quite so much dramatic classical music must be played whilst experiencing the frying of chips behind the scenes of the fast food chain, becoming so dramatized it often felt like fiction.
It seems as though Compliance becomes so caught up in its own gloriously disturbing narrative that it simply forgets its aims instead focusing on the heavily uncomfortable events at hand. This leads to an ending which is not only disappointingly unexplained but also carries the tone of a ‘secondary school’ lecture on the dangers of society, feeling totally out of place acting as an unnecessary signpost to the blatant message. At least however the message is present and poignant being so bizarre it grips doing an admirable job in maintaining suspense even in similar scenes of repeated discomfort. This is helped by the brilliant acting of the two main protagonists, the boss and employee, played by Ann Dowd and Dreama Walker who bind the plot together giving the cinematic realism that a narrative, so delicate as this, desperately deserves.
Although Compliance is an achievement on a number of levels it works more as a satisfying (if hugely unsettling) view into the rusty working cogs of society rather than a pleasing and well-rounded cinematic experience. Being such an unbelievable yet interesting true story this film would've been more engrossing in a documentary format where the psychological study of Conformity could be analysed and implemented on the fascinating story of Compliance.
6/10- Grips initially but falls flat with an unhelpful climax.