Some films are fun to watch, while others are a thrill, edge-of-your-seat experience. A few, however, are just too tough to watch, because of the subject matter or the way it is handled (Requiem for a Dream comes to mind). Compliance falls in this last category, not because it is a bad film; far from it. But because it is done so well, that you can feel the uneasiness of the characters involved.
Compliance follows a prank call that goes too far, involving Susan (Ann Dowd), who is the manager of a fast-food restaurant and Becky (Dreama Walker), one of her young employees. The prank caller pretends to be an officer investigating a theft that might involve Becky, but also hints at a possible bigger bust involving her brother as well. As the prank goes on, the situation gets more out of hand until its tragic consequences. Now, it may sound like a simple premise, but the film turned out to be one of the most uncomfortable watches I've had recently.
The film successfully establishes Susan as a meek, insecure woman which makes the caller's manipulations more believable. Dowd's performance is nothing short of great, but she's not the only one. Pat Healy is disturbingly good as the caller. His cold, carefree performance makes it all the more unnerving and creepy; and Bill Camp, who plays Susan's fiancee, is equally great. Finally, kudos to Dreama Walker for another great performance in such a tough role. She held her own and managed to make Becky's descent into a scared, confused, and vulnerable victim a believable one.
As the film reached its climax, it begins to push the boundaries of plausibility. But after reading the events it was inspired on and realizing it all happened almost as it was seen on the film, it puts things in perspective and only makes it harder to stomach. As I told my wife in the end, reality is scarier than fiction. One starts to wonder "What would I have done if I were in that situation" and, the way things are presented in the film, one can understand why things went as far as they did. Most people are condemning the manager for allowing this to happen, but as they say, hindsight is 20/20.
Overall, a really good film with great performances all-around, but one I don't see myself rewatching anytime soon. Grade: A-
(All pictures belong to Magnolia Pictures and its affiliates)