Recently: “Compliance”

Films that are inspired by true events are not just interesting because of that fact, but because of how they can ultimately make you feel. You may know what the film is going to be about, but it’s another thing to see the finished product.

Nothing is truer than with the Magnolia Pictures film “Compliance”, in which a film inspired by true events goes above and beyond with what it makes you feel.

This psychological thriller stars Ann Dowd (“The Leftovers”, “The Divide”), Dreama Walker (“The Grim Sleeper”, “Date and Switch”), Pat Healy (“Draft Day”, “Starry Eyes”), Bill Camp (“Manhattan”, “12 Years a Slave”), Philip Ettinger (“Manhattan”, “The Good Wife”), James McCaffrey (“The Following”, “Betrayed”), and Ashlie Atkinson (“Nurse Jackie”, “Elementary”).

The film was written and directed by Craig Zobel (“Great World of Sound”).

The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 21, 2012 and would later enter a limited theatrical release on Aug. 17.

For a film inspired by true events it certainly is one of the most disturbing films I’ve ever seen. Everything about it rubs you the wrong way and leaves you absolutely unsettled, even while you’re captivated by it all the way through. One reason why this film can hit so many nerves is that this didn’t just happen once or twice, but as the film says at the end, 70 times with similar instances. So chilling.

The acting was superb. For a film that was pretty simple, in every way, it didn’t try to become some overdramatic film and be something it wasn’t. The basic story is that a man, for some reason, pretended to be a cop and called a restaurant claiming an employee stole money. He then went right on getting the manager too force the employee to go through many questionable practices, all in the hopes of uncovering this supposed lost money. Sadly, it didn’t just stick there, this “cop” tried to get others, and successfully got some, to do as he said. The tension that’s built up was of a very different variety than that of what I’ve experienced before.

The acting was realistic, believable as a whole, and also became disturbing to watch as the film progressed. Because of the performances and the specific characters, you could easily see how Dowd got herself into this situation and went right on believing Healy. Of course you feel so bad for Walker as she’s being unnecessarily victimized. Charisma, it turns out, can extend all the way through phone conversations. I kept questioning every action from every character and became more and more bothered by what occurred.

And, I have to, from both film and real life perspectives, ask, why did these people go along with what this man said? Charisma, again clearly played a role, but that couldn’t be it. All he did was say he was law enforcement and Dowd ate it up. Of course, and this I can understand, Walker and Ettinger would believe this as they’re younger and might not know anything of actual police procedure, or that most of what he was claiming sounded too far out there to be true. But, it still begs the question, how did they not suspect? The film showed instances, as things kept going, that they were skeptical, but the characters never fully followed through with this thinking. The adults are the worst offenders. You’d think that they’d have a better grasp, or just a little more knowledge on what police can and can’t do. In the film, Healy was very convincing and it makes sense that someone could easily be swayed by him, but still it seems odd. How did these events manage to happen in real life? Did none of these characters or real people ever catch episodes of “Law & Order”, or it’s spin-offs or any other crime/police procedural show? Surprisingly many people get bursts of knowledge from these, which drives them, and they feel better with just this knowledge.

While I could enjoy this as an independent film, of the kind that indie’s should be, I was more shaken than with any other film. It’s not like we’re talking about some character modeled after someone, like Ed Gein, or who committed terrible crimes decades ago, like Charles Manson. This was pretty recent from a historical standpoint, especially the incident for which this film is based. All the more troublesome. Even if one feels they shouldn’t like this film, it’s a well made film. A style that isn’t able to be done very often. I’m, surprisingly glad I saw this film, but won’t forget about it any time soon.


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