Compliance: We're All Living in Abu Ghraib Now

After its Sundance premiere, Compliance might be infamous as the film that inspired a woman to cry out "Rape is not entertainment!" However, writer/director Craig Zobel is not Daniel Tosh. Judging from the film itself, which keeps its final sexual assault entirely offscreen, Zobel seems to agree with that heckler/critic. Based on a true story, Compliance begins on a busy day in a fictional ChickWich restaurant. Sandra (Ann Dowd) gets a phone call from a man calling himself Officer Daniels (Pat Healy). The cop claims that a young employee, Becky (Dreama Walker), has been seen stealing money from a customer's purse. Sandra takes Becky into a back room and obeys the instructions from Officer Daniels: to take off all of Becky's clothes and search her for the stolen money. On one level, it's ridiculous that someone would take the nudity-obsessed Officer Daniels for a real cop. On the other, it's a little absurd that we have to take off our shoes to board an airplane. More than any other recent narrative film, Compliance allegorizes the loss of civil liberties and creeping authoritarianism—even the sexual sadism that popped up at Abu Ghraib—we have come to accept since 9/11. Zobel's images of female nudity reveal Becky's vulnerability rather than offer audience titillation, but it's crucial to his project that Walker is a young, attractive woman. If male spectators desire her, they come to feel complicit in Officer Daniels' funny games.

 
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