3 January 2013 | twilliams76
I dare you NOT to react ...
I dare you to watch Compliance and not have some deep-rooted psychological reaction. Yell at the screen. Curse the characters. Walk out in disgust. I guarantee ANY movie fan will react.
Compliance isn't a movie one can casually watch and shrug-off as if one hasn't just seen something. I am not even sure how my closest friends would react to a film like this one. I watched with curious fascination at first but the fascination and interest quickly evolved into disdain and eventual outrage as the film played itself out for the audience's voyeuristic entertainment. Knowing that the film is based on a "True Story" is even more off-putting but none-the-less (and possibly more) repulsive. Thinking back, it is even unsettling trying to "peg" the audience as the unsuspecting pawns in this perverse social experiment gone horribly wrong.
Before getting to the film specifically, much has been made in regards to this film and a series of psychological tests dating back to the 1960s which have been collectively labeled The Milgram Experiment. These experiments involved test subjects who believed that they were either the subjects of a series of tests OR those in authority conducting this series of tests. The Milgram Experiment was also briefly cinematically explored back in the early 1980's in the film Ghostbusters in which the pretty blonde and the guy were guessing flashcards with symbols on their backsides. A wrong answer garnered a shock (poor guy). The Milgram Experiments were taken much further than this and caused many of the tested-upon subjects to appear to be near death after receiving numerous electrical shocks – the actual subject of the test were those placed in authority: how far would they be willing to go if they were supposedly cleared of all wrong-doing? Would people willingly allow their subjects to die?! Compliance doesn't deal with electrical shocks
but shock you it does! The set-up is simple. A frazzled fast-food manager working on a busy evening with a short shift of workers (and short on supplies like bacon), gets a phone call from a police officer asking about the young, blonde cashier on the front line of the restaurant who has apparently been accused of taking money out of a customer's purse. As the officer is also busy, he is hoping the manager can assist him in asking the young employee (Becky – Dreama Walker of TV's "Gossip Girl") some questions. Calling her into the office, Becky, is confused and bewildered by the accusations; but as the manager Sandra (Ann Dowd – Garden State, Marley & Me, Bachelorette) HAS a police officer on the phone she does not want to appear to believe her own employee over the cop. What follows
is beyond words.
Becky is subjected to a series of humiliations at the hands of Sandra at the behest of Officer Daniels. When Sandra is called away to assist with a series of events in the restaurant, another employee is brought in to watch over a by-now-nude Becky. Handed the phone to talk to Officer Daniels and take his instructions, EACH employee reacts differently
some surprisingly and some not-so-surprisingly. The entire point of the film, I believe, is to shock but to also make each of us viewing this aware of WHO we would be. It is simple to say "I'd NEVER do that!" but is that too quick of a reaction. Sandra believes she is doing right because she is talking to a cop (it is NOT a spoiler to say she is NOT
this plays out at the very beginning of the film); but does human decency ever register? I've read several attacks on the intelligence of these characters – "well, they ARE in the food service industry"; but that is an insult to mankind. Compliance asks a valid question
and that incidents like this were duplicated (well
nearly 70 times!) says something else. EACH person in this film is the subject of a cruel experiment
all believing that they are COMPLYING with authority. Of course as astute viewer can see the holes – they are supposed to be there – but if there weren't any logical gaps this film wouldn't be as outrageous.
I believe this film fully succeeds in its goal. Watch and react.