Compliance opens with the words ‘Inspired by True Events’ in giant lettering and later reveals that incidents similar to those it depicts have occurred over 70 times in various US locations. The film concerns itself with a scenario in which a prank caller, posing as a police officer, persuades fast food staff to interrogate an innocent young employee through demeaning methods, instructions they comply with. What director Craig Zobel forgets is that regardless of the story’s baffling but accurate details from the most notorious of the real-life incidents, depicting authentic material outwith a documentary format renders it fiction, entirely dependent on directorial execution to convey believability.
The film ultimately feels exploitative, especially in its schematic selectiveness about what to show or not. Its generally matter-of-fact approach is at odds with aesthetic choices such as a tasteless thriller score. Actively switching back and forth between the restaurant and the prank caller, meanwhile, shifts the film away from any meaningful exploration of the ideas of compliance or perceived authority, instead offering an external, simplistic, smirking avatar of evil. [Josh Slater-Williams]