An opening shot of a drooping American flag signals Compliance‘s relevance to the lugubrious American condition.  This symbolically loaded true crime story begins when Sandra (Ann Dowd), the manager of a fast food restaurant, receives a call from a man (Pat Healy) claiming to be “Officer Daniels” of the local police department.  He informs her that one of her employees, Becky (Dreama Walker), has been accused of stealing money from a patron’s purse and that she is also a person of interest in a broader investigation.  Sandra, under an unusual amount of stress, is eager to comply with the caller’s instructions, no matter how unorthodox these would appear to be.  She complies, for instance, with his wish that Becky should be detained a back room of the restaurant, her belongings searched, and even her clothes removed.  Over the course of the evening “Officer Daniels” instructs Sandra and others to guard and physically and psychologically torture Becky, sometimes meeting with principled resistance on the other end of the line, but, to his immense delight, usually not.

The situations presented in Compliance are absurd and occasionally funny, but more usually disconcerting in reflecting the gullibility of a nation willing to take any figure of putative government or corporate authority at face value as an arbiter of right and wrong and true and false.  “I’m going to need you to address me as ‘sir’ or ‘officer’,” “Officer Daniels” says, and his unwitting dupes comply.  Merely claiming that “this is procedure” or “a standard thing” is sufficient in most cases; but “Officer Daniels” also understands the cowering child (or usefully childish idiot) in people and knows the value of a paternalistic tone when he says, “I don’t really have time to debate it with you, son” or “You need to watch your mouth, son.”  These last items also point to the inconvenience of free speech and dissent to overly ambitious rulers, and just as duplicitous regimes have always sought the hearts and minds of their people, “Officer Daniels” couples his verbal intimidation with flattery, telling a pleased Sandra, for instance, that she is being “very professional” by following orders and that she is “almost like a real cop.”  All the while “Officer Daniels” is nothing but a perverted prank caller.

The cello-and-xylophone score perfectly captures the tragicomically depressing absurdity of a country of docile pawns who consume fast food not just with their mouths, but with their minds as well.  Compliance is about more than a self-contained human resources debacle; it exposes the idiocy of a nation of sheep who believe that the welfare-warfare state and puppet authoritarians like Obama and Romney have their best interests at heart.  A shocking statistic given at the end of the film should offer viewers a salutary serving of food for thought.

4 out of 5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Compliance is:

4. Diversity-skeptical.  A black fast food employee is thoughtlessly foul-mouthed.

3. Anti-corporate.  “Corporate always wants two people for a strip search.”

2. Anti-slut.  Society’s normalization of female depravity makes Becky an easier mark for the more extreme demands made by “Officer Daniels”.

1. State-skeptical.  Like always, they persuade you.

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