"This review contains spoilers but has gotten its flu shot"
Craig Zobel's film "Compliance" is based on a true story and is a scathing indictment on the increasing loss of morality and basic common sense in America. This is the story of one the most horrible (or effective) prank calls ever made, and the peoples lives it destroyed. Truth is definitely stranger than fiction and as things start to unfold it is almost incomprehensible that this actually happened and that the victims actually let this happen.
The story takes place at a fast food restaurant on a busy Friday. Sandra the middle-aged manager has a lot on her plate (so to speak). The previous night one of the employees left the freezer open letting $1400 of inventory spoil, she is expecting an audit from one of the corporations secret shoppers, and she thinks her boyfriend is about to propose. This part is played with such heartbreaking honesty by Ann Dowd that everybody should be able to relate to her in some way. Within this hectic day, she receives a phone call from an Officer Daniels stating that Becky, one of her teenaged employees, has stolen some money from a customers purse and that he is also on the line with the general manager of the restaurant. Sandra takes Becky off the front register and into the back office for some questioning. Becky denies these claims, but the officer says he is with the victim now and that she should just come clean with the money and make it a lot easier on herself. Sandra agrees. Becky is at a loss, she adamantly denies everything and states that she has done nothing wrong, but things are far from over.
Officer Daniels is busy with another investigation and needs Sandra to search Becky to see if they can find the money. Sandra is a little leery about the idea and has another female employee present as the search is conducted. Nothing is found as Becky removes her clothes, and then her underwear. Officer Daniels is quite the talker and assures Sandra that he will be taking all the responsibility for what goes on and that he is grateful for her help. Sandra even follows his instructions to take all of Becky's clothes, purse, and cell phone put them in a bag and take them out to her car. He is stern, forceful and extremely manipulative. With Becky now wearing only an apron and Sandra being down an employee, things keep getting busier up front and she is forced back to work. She has to hand off the phone to another employee, one of Becky's male friends, Kevin. He can see that this situation is not right and refuses to do anything that the Officer tells him too, so the officer demands to speak to someone else. With no one else available Sandra calls in her boyfriend to keep an eye on Becky and talk with the Officer. This is where things really start to escalate to absurd levels. You'll probably find yourself yelling at the screen, and asking "why are you so stupid!" but this actually did happen. Becky talks to Officer Daniels on a number of occasions and he threatens to lock her away in jail, and that they are investing her brother for dealing drugs. He lays on a guilt trip after guilt trip and she becomes like putty in his hands. Becky is played by the remarkably brave and fearless Dreama Weaver. Becky's mind ventures into a sort of survival mode as she agrees to everything she is told to do just to get it over with. She never outright refused to do anything no matter how bizarre and humiliating. She may grumble a little at first but that is short lived.
"Compliance" is the most perfect title this movie could have. People just have such a hard time saying no, that they are willing to do anything just appease authority weather its real or not. Sandra's weak nature and inability to "Just say No!" enables "Officer Daniels" to perpetrate his prank to the fullest extent. "Officer Daniels" preys on and exploits peoples weaknesses to make them do absolutely horrible things. But its not like he is physically there holding a gun to their heads. They could've just hung up the phone right? A number of people hate this movie and find it utterly infuriating and hard to watch. Which can be true but the fact that this really happen makes it a truly engaging drama.
For more about the actual events of this movie and this prank call phenomenon that has happened over 70 times in 30 states. Look for the "20/20" TV show interviews or a Google search for "Louise Ogborn" the real victim of this incredible hoax.