Compliance (2012) – 4/5

Extremely disturbing film based on real events that will leave you angry and shaking and maybe even a little sick to your stomach, but in a good way, sort of. It’s not exactly a pleasant experience, nor is it very entertaining, but the film is important, a must watch, for everyone, everywhere, especially if you’re dumb, or gullible, or easily suggestible. A huge chunk of the population, in other words.

The film is hard to talk about in the typical “movie” sense. It’s technically pretty good; lots of closeups, great lighting, probably shot on video. It looks very good. I wonder what the budget here was? And the acting, man. Everyone here is great. No weak performances whatsoever. No one stands out, really. Maybe the main girl, and the actress who plays her boss, and the fiancée, and the phone call guy, but really, it’s hard to pick. Just strong, realistic performances all around.

It is a little long, though. You can feel it the most at the beginning when the prank first starts; a lot of it is set up, and it’s understandable why it needed to be as long as it is, it just gets a bit tiring. Once things kick into gear, though, the film is a free for all of repulsive acts and insanity. It’s never all that graphic, but the acting is so good, and the cinematography so tight and claustrophobic, that it’s difficult not the let the circumstances of the situation get under your skin. The fact that it all happened to some extent just makes the whole thing all the more disturbing.

But what disturbed me the most about this film is how utterly implausible it all is. How the hell are we expected to believe that people could be so stupid, so careless, so downright evil, especially considering some of the stuff that happens at the end? Yet, it all actually happened. Maybe not exactly the way it’s portrayed here, but very close. Same general circumstances, same general results. It’s just hard to believe. And sad. And disturbing. And it makes me question how we as a species have managed to get as far as we have.

Ultimately, the film is good. Uncomfortable, but a good film. It’s not brilliant or groundbreaking or anything, nor is it very entertaining, but it’s well made and well acted and well written. And it’s important. Hard to watch, but necessary, especially if you’re not familiar with the events of the original story. This film is a psychological inoculation to this type of manipulation. It does something very few movies, especially non-documentaries, are capable of doing: make you think. And it does so by showing you the vile, horrific consequences of ignorance and obedience and blind acceptance to authority. You’ll be angry, you’ll be disturbed, you might even throw up a few times, but, by the end, you’ll be a better person for it. Probably.

So, good film, but not one I would ever willingly watch again.

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