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The 25 Best Movies of 2012

16. Compliance

Director: Craig Zobel
Stars: Dreama Walker, Ann Dowd, Pat Healy, Bill Camp, Philip Ettinger, Ashlie Atkinson

Using several real-life cases as his inspiration, Craig Zobel's discomforting Compliance is a film that's best viewed as a case study in the darkest of human behavior. The film's set-up is straightforward: A prank caller phones into a nondescript fast food joint saying he's a cop and convinces the manager (Ann Dowd) that one of her employees (Dreama Walker) stole money from a customer. The entirety of Compliance consists of the young, cute worker's humiliation, which begins with an awkward strip search and escalates into heinous acts of sexual violation.

How far Zobel's film goes is best experienced for one's self, but what we can say about Compliance is that you'll definitely ask yourself, "Would I be so gullible?" Zobel deftly explores our subservience in the face of authority, showing how fears of legal punishment can make people do the craziest things. Staged with an unsettling matter-of-fact vibe, Compliance mines psychological horror out of basic human miscommunication, and the excellent performances from all on board sell every cringe, gasp, and wide-eyed shock.

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