Monday, 1 October 2012

Compliance, dir/wr. Craig Zobel, st. Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, Pat Healy

Compliance is a rather grim dramatisation of a real-life event that took place at a McDonalds restaurant in Mount Washington, Kentucky, in 2004, where father of five David Stewart, posing as a policeman, called the establishment's manger and managed to convince her to detain, question and later strip-search a young female employee. It's no secret that Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram's obedience and authority experiments have been borne out, often in increasingly horrifying ways,  in various real-world events across the globe, and equally, given the foreknowledge of such a film's premise, we're primed for the degradation that ultimately takes place. What is fascinating about Zobel's stagey chamber piece is the way in which 'Officer Daniels' (Healy) manages to persuade and enable via a slew of crudely implemented psychological suggestions and prompts. Granted access to both sides of his phone calls allows us to witness, alarmingly, the work of an amateur scammer (albeit one who logs conversation details and uses pre-pay phonecards) rather than some kind of criminal mastermind. Daniels' requests grow ever bizarre and un-law-enforcery, and luckily for us and the integrity of the film (as well as the victim) another employer begins to grow suspicious just as we're about to stop buying into the ruse. In retrospect it all seems a little incredulous that the scam would have even a quarter of the run-time depicted in the film, and one cannot help but wonder, with the greatest of respect, if the story might have had the same outcomes had it happened in the UK, but I guess that's the point. How often have we been told by staff, officials, uniformed officers, to move back, take another route, wait over there - all of which we do pretty much with little or no debate. In context, the perpetrator's ingenuity is revealed to be simply a manipulation of our weaknesses, and that's a pretty scary thought.