Set in an already horrible fast-food restaurant, Compliance sees a prank caller exploit and humiliate its staff; essentially the Milgram Experiment (itself the subject of an upcoming feature film), designed to measure people’s obedience to authority when commanded to act immorally – and in this case, stupidly.
Based on a spate of sadistic hoax calls made to McDonald’s and other fast-food restaurants across America, Craig Zobel’s film opens with the caption: “The following story is so shocking, it’s hard to believe it’s true.” You said it, caption.
The way these characters respond is completely implausible; that it’s a true story is almost irrelevant, in terms of narrative. Real events aside, do I believe in the drama on screen? Not a McNugget of it.
Only the young burger fryer Kevin (Philip Ettinger) has the good sense to put the phone down; everyone else’s behaviour – from the manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) to the Gillian Jacobs lookalike Becky (Dreama Walker) – makes about as much sense as a McDonald’s salad.
It’s certainly a stressful 90 minutes, with a level of discomfort that’s sure to stay with you. But ultimately this 2012 docudrama is like McDonald’s, in that I just don’t buy it. And it makes you feel a bit sick.