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.

One response to “Compliance

  1. Great work. I thought this was a really good film, and I do believe that people can genuinely be that stupid (I spent a couple of hours reading up on the stories the plot was based on, and it was very disturbing).

    You’re absolutely right about it being icky stuff, deeply, deeply unpleasant and I felt like a voyeur just watching a fictionalised account.

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