Doug Wright on ‘Compliance’ by Craig Zobel

Eye on the Oscars: Writers' Roundup

In “Compliance,” Craig Zobel pulls off a very deft trick; he makes a fast-food chicken shack as darkly ominous and richly allegorical as Kafka’s “The Castle.” His seemingly mundane story begins when a police officer calls the manager at the local ChickWich and asks her to investigate a junior employee for possible theft. We watch as Sandra (in a quietly shattering performance by Ann Dowd) morphs from a benign, maternal boss into a woman imbued with power and moral certitude, committing an escalating series of atrocities against a hapless young woman stripped (literally and figuratively) of her most fundamental rights. For over 90 harrowing minutes, Zobel brilliantly invokes the specter of historical events as revelatory of our base nature as the Milgram experiments and the rise of the National Socialism. He even exposes with a droll, sardonic wit the underlying master-servant paradigms of the world’s major religions. That’s no mean feat for a film whose liveliest action shot is one of raw potatoes descending into a deep fryer. His screenplay has the heart-quickening pulse of the best thrillers and the satisfying headiness of an essay by Erich Fromm. Zobel knows the scariest monsters aren’t in outer space, but lurking within our own hearts, just waiting for permission to lunge.

Doug Wright, a Pulitzer Prize winner for “I Am My Own Wife,” wrote the book for the new musical “Hands on a Hardbody,” to open on Broadway in March.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety

Loading