Craig Zobel

Actor Pat Healy doesn’t have an easy role in Craig Zobel‘s Compliance. In the controversial Sundance hit, Healy is mostly seen alone in his scenes, doing one of the most dull cinematic acts around: talking on the phone. Not only that, the character’s reasoning is all a mystery, motivations which Healy has to completely internalize. Those feelings he has to capture aren’t the most pleasant ones as well. “Officer Daniels” (as he likes to go by) is a self-loathing emasculated man who revels in power, or at least that’s how Healy sees him. Zobel doesn’t give plain answers for the many of the characters’ bone-headed and disturbing actions. Compliance could be about how far misogyny can drive an emasculated dweeb or, as our Kate Erbland put it, an “exceedingly well-made interpersonal drama that hinges on the limits (and, oftentimes, depths) of human nature and people’s response to certain carefully calibrated psychological tricks.” Here’s what actor Pat Healy had to say about having to carry around feelings of self-loathing, why he couldn’t do his scenes in his pajamas, and the childlike wonder of Werner Herzog:

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Editor’s note: With Sundance’s most controversial film hitting theaters today, here is a re-run of our Compliance review from that festival, originally published on January 25. It seems that there is always at least one film at Sundance that stirs up some sort of controversy – the kind the leads to people running out of screenings or ends with people screaming at post-movie question-and-answer sessions. In 2011, it was Lucky McKee’s The Woman, this year, it’s undoubtedly Craig Zobel‘s Compliance. Much like McKee was taken to task about presumed misogyny in his film, Zobel endured post-screenings Q&As in which the film was damned as being exploitative. In those cases, however, the hecklers were quite wrong. Compliance is an exceedingly well-made interpersonal drama that hinges on the limits (and, oftentimes, depths) of human nature and people’s response to certain carefully calibrated psychological tricks.

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Craig Zobel Interview

Compliance caused quite a stir at this year’s Sundance. Many labeled the film exploitative, finding its subject matter too much to bare. There were also other viewers, such as our Kate Erbland, who perfectly described the film as “an exceedingly well-made interpersonal drama that hinges on the limits (and, oftentimes, depths) of human nature and people’s response to certain carefully calibrated psychological tricks.” It’s a fine line between exploitation and conveying the harsh reality of the true story, but that’s not the sole challenge director Craig Zobel faced. A majority of Compliance features one of the most dullest acts to watch on screen: characters talking on the phone. There’s rarely anything cinematic about it, but Zobel managed to make every phone call ooze with dread, which probably helped him land a pretty nice gig with Tobey Maguire… Here’s what Compliance director Craig Zobel had to say about the film’s exploration of authority, never giving clear answers for the truly terrible decisions made in the film, and making one long phone call between a psycho and an average joe manager exciting:

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Tobey Maguire

After toying around with frail human dependence on authority figures in Compliance (which hits select theaters on August 17th), director Craig Zobel will team with Tobey Maguire for the post-Apocalyptic feature Z for Zachariah according to Variety. Maybe it will ease our hunger for letter-based-end-of-the-world films like Y: The Last Man and World War Z which still haven’t seen the light of day. The movie is based on the Robert C. O’Brien book with a script from newcomer Nissar Modi. Continuing the trend of young adult novels featuring strong, young female leads, the story here concerns a 16-year-old girl who believes she is the last survivor of a nuclear war. Fortunately, there’s at least one other survivor – a scientist (the role Maguire will play) who is ill and getting worse. At the heart of the drama is their relationship and the love and suspicion that keeps it on an uneven keel. So there’s more Apocalypse on the way. Our long national nightmare, continues. Hopefully you’ve stocked up on bottled water.

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Buried in my viewing notes from Craig Zobel‘s Sundance premiere, Compliance, is a one-line note from a fellow journalist. Scrawled out, almost angrily, it reads “no one is this stupid!!!” Oh, but they are. Zobel’s film was one of the most controversial of the festival – subject to walk-outs and heated Q&A sessions – but it was also one of the absolute best productions unveiled in Park City this past January. The film is based on a true story (no matter how confounding and bizarre that story may be) and one that Zobel distills down into one singular event. Compliance centers on fast food worker Becky (Dreama Walker) and her generally nice (if a bit of overbearing) boss Sandra (Ann Dowd). On a day like any other, Sandra receives a phone call from a police officer who says he’s working on a case that involves Becky, and would Sandra be so kind as to help him detain Becky until he can get there? And could she possibly search Becky? And she possibly help him out with a full strip search of Becky? And…well, you get the idea. Compliance is as uncomfortable and riveting as cinema gets, and so is its first trailer. Get ready to get uncomfortable, and check out the first trailer for Compliance after the break.

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