Just how stupid can some people be? This is a question I often ask but one which raises itself repeatedly throughout this film written and directed by Craig Zobel based on a sequence of real events which took place in a Mc Donald’s in Bullitt County. It is a compelling work which will alternatively frustrate and cause disbelief as a situation spirals out of control continuing even after a serious outcome has been reached and a crime committed all in the supposed process of preventing and solving one.
The fact it is based on a real life situation which saw a fast food manager fall victim to a hoax caller masquerading as a policeman simply raises the levels the incredulous nature to new heights and confirms once and for all that truth is far stranger than fiction.
The plot focuses on the already simmering tension between two employees at a Chick Wich fast food chain. Sandra- an outstanding performance from Ann Dowd- is the middle aged manager who feels threatened and envious of the teenage counter assistant Becky- Dreama Walker- who is popular with the male species in a way Sandra obviously never has been. When Sandra receives a phone call informing her that a customer has accused Becky of stealing money from her purse- a ludicrous assertion in the first instance- Sandra wastes no time in removing her from her station and taking her into the office where, under orders from a so called Officer Daniels on the end of the phone line, she detains her whilst systemically dehumanising her. First she removes her mobile phone then graduating to stripping her off any dignity by forcing her to remove her clothing and submit to a strip search; all under the instruction of a police officer who has only identified himself from the end of a phone line.
Never questioning anything she is asked to do and ignoring the protestation of Becky who is pleading with her to stop she unbelievably then, under orders from Officer Daniels, calls in her fiancé Van-after a male employee has refused to be put in this situation realising something is amiss- to keep an eye on the naked nineteen year old until his alleged arrival while she goes back to work on the floor.
This is when events really spiral out of control as following the instructions of the alleged police officer he forces her to remove the apron which is the only item covering her nakedness and in a moment of absurdity makes her lean across his lap whilst he repeatedly spanks her. Inevitably a sexual assault takes place but when Sandra enters the office again she fails to acknowledge the very obviously awkward tension which hangs in the air. When Van leaves without speaking to her or even able to look at her she still seems impervious to anything wrong and continues to acquiesce to the voice at the other end of the phone. Only after she asks another male employee to watch Becky and he realises something is seriously wrong does she question her instincts and eventually calls in the police for real.
Compliance is a truly riveting film and one which will have you constantly shaking your head in disbelief. Personally I have always had a flagrant disregard for authority so found it hard to stomach how anyone could have been so compliant with such a flimsy introduction and such ludicrous demands. It does show however how authority is something which intimidates many people and in the wrong hands can also be a very dangerous thing.
Real life security footage of the events inspiring the film circulating the internet confirm the accuracy of Zobel’s screenplay and the closing sequence where the disgraced-and obviously sacked Sandra is interviewed on television is almost identical and reveals her stupidity and gullibility are genuine. However it also shows she is still unwilling to accept any responsibility for what happened to a young vulnerable girl who as an employee under her charge should have expected to have been protected. Complaince is definitely one of the most interesting films of the year and also one of the most compelling.