Stress Position traces the course of a dubious wager between two friends. Psychological torture is the contest and the viewer is in the crossfire.
Why I thought this would be a fun one is another dubious decision. Stress Position (2013) starts out in a rather lighthearted manner which belies what is to come. It also starts out looking like a rather low-budget effort, but that too is somewhat of a misnomer. These bits of misdirection trap the viewer as they do the two prime participants and the point of no return is quickly breached.
This is a very good film. I might even say excellent. However, Stress Position comes with a very healthy dose of squirm-factor. There are some humorous or light touches throughout, but they are always at least slightly uncomfortable.
And the squirm-factor is mighty real. If you can get through this film without some very uncomfortable and tense feelings, then I might suggest a career for you in some of the darker corners our fine planet has to offer. If you are anything short of a sadist, then this film will have you squirming in your seat.
The structure of this movie is very interesting as it bounces between first person narrative, documentary-like observation, and slick movie-making.
Stress Position gets more than its feet wet in the very real world of psychological torture. It is a subject matter that is both topical and shocking. The war on terror and the tactics of security services are one thing. A daring bet between two friends is quite another. Somehow the removal of psychological torture from one to the other puts an even more horrifying and stark spin on the matter. Additionally, the laboratory-like and experimental feel to the filming within the film, ultimately, the movie within the movie, gives the whole thing a very off-kilter point of view. At times, it is shocking to see what is going on behind the scenes, as well. And it is not just that. It is shocking to see that there is a behind the scenes, in and of itself.
I don’t want to give away too much here. I don’t want to spoil the fun, if that is the right word. Suffice it to say, this is a tough movie, but very unique, and very well worth the effort. It will stay with you and leave you thinking about it over and over. If you are normal, so to speak, it will inform your sensibilities. If you are not, well, I’m not sure I want to think about that.
If nothing else, Stress Position should warn most of us away from a friendly game of psychological torture. Not that most of us would have gone there anyway, but it is just a reminder not to cross-over to the darker realms of mind-games, big or small. And that might be the greatest takeaway of all. In matters of mind-games, small can be diabolically monstrous.