Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Movie Review: Stress Position (2013)

Stress Position came to me courtesy of Brink Vision as a screener (along with another screener that I will hopefully be getting to shortly) and it was a movie that I really, really wanted to like. Every time I read the description, I would get all these different ideas in my head about cool things I thought the movie would do. And I was enormously disappointed with what I got.

Stress Position is a sort of experiment between two friends, AJ and Dave, after a conversation they have about how well they could survive the torturous conditions of a place like Guantanamo Bay. They decide to put that to the test, and let one person have control of the other for one week and let them implement what torture they can come up with either until the end of the seven days, or until they break down and reveal the code that will give the torturer access to a bank account that holds $10,000. The only rule is that they can't do anything that will cause physical harm.

The movie is impressively and beautifully filmed in a way that is very eye-catching and appealing. The stark whiteness of the torture room and the torturers' costumes may seem bland, but it really serves to make you focus more on the characters and what is being said and done. Even the food and drink that AJ serves to David when he is in the room is white - milk comes out of a small spout in the wall and the food is The only thing in the room is a huge abstract metal structure that makes both the torture victim and the audience very uncomfortable, especially when one of the men is tied to it and you can see how painful it must be. The very first scene is interesting because it is just a five-minute conversation between AJ and David that introduces the tension in their friendship and sets up what the movie is about.

But that's really where the positives stop. The execution of the movie's interesting premise is, frankly, incredibly lame. The "torture" that AJ inflicts on David is more like just random annoying shit that has no effect on David whatsoever. AJ actually uses tickling as a torture method! He even strips David down to his underwear and brings in three hot chicks when he's trying the tickle torture in order to embarrass him more, but this turns out to be all for nil because... David is not ticklish. How boring. David is also forced to make a self-portrait out of his own hair in order to be able to go to the bathroom, and then he's ut of his own blood - it's not at all as interesting as it may sound.

When the tables are turned and AJ becomes the victim, things are completely unbalanced. While AJ's torture methods never really went beyond the psychological, one of the first things David does is freaking waterboard AJ. Um, how is that not against their previously agreed upon rules? In truth, AJ's acting like a bit of a dick during his week with David kind of makes the audience want him to get his comeuppance, and so he does. The ending seems to suggest that the whole movie was really about AJ or at least leading up to his big reveal from the torture, and it is totally anticlimactic and again, lame.

After watching the film, I still had many questions and was happy to see that the DVD included a commentary track from both director AJ Bond and actor David Amito. However, listening to it confused me a lot more than I already was. If I understand correctly, Stress Position is not exactly a fictional film. Bond and Amito really had the conversation about Guantanamo and really did decide to do this experiment with each other and film it and make it into a movie. The film was not necessarily scripted - they just came up with ideas and then shot them. So they were playing themselves in a way and they really did torture each other, but it's still sort of a fictional film. I don't know how they made this whole idea work for themselves because it did not work at all for me.

It's an interesting but completely confusing and messed up idea for a movie that really isn't as cool as they think it is. Someone else could probably take this story and make it much more complex and a much better character study than what these guys came up with. It is too specific to their personal lives and therefore does not have as big an impact on a general audience. Stress Position looks pretty and is executed well, but the story is very weak and hard to understand for people that were not involved in the project.

1 comment:

  1. I would have cracked from the tickling O_O