Movie review: Camp X-Ray explores an unlikely friendship in Guantánamo Bay | Film Review | Indy Week
Pin It

Movie review: Camp X-Ray explores an unlikely friendship in Guantánamo Bay 

Good acting is often the result of finding a suitable role. Upon initial inspection, Kristen Stewart playing a newbie detention guard at Guantanamo Bay in CAMP X-RAY doesn't sound like a match made in casting boot camp. But before her one-note natterings in the Twilight movies, Stewart assembled a catalogue of capable film credits, including Undertow, Panic Room, Zathura, Into the Wild and The Cake Eaters.

Stewart's detached, even austere aura and restrained delivery actually suit the role of Amy Cole, an Army private embarking on her initial assignment to GTMO (Camp Delta, to be precise). Cole is fighting a personal war on three fronts. She's trying to shake off the dust of her small-town Florida upbringing while coping with being a female enlistee in a misogynistic military culture.

And she's plunged into a prison where the inmates must be called "detainees" (those pesky Geneva Conventions) and the guards' primary charge isn't to prevent escape—it's an island, after all—but to use any means necessary to ensure that their captives simply don't die.

It's a monotonous mission without practical value or ethical clarity. Cole's daily duty is to circumambulate the interior of a cell block and peer inside each room to detect any skullduggery afoot. But with some savvy detainees incarcerated for nearly a decade, the film dangles the open question of whether they hold the mental upper hand over a revolving door of inexperienced sentries and their jaded superiors.

It's against this backdrop that Amy encounters Ali Amir (Peyman Moaadi from A Separation), a defiant, English-speaking Muslim rendered from his German home eight years earlier. Ali takes to calling Amy "Blondie," and their initial exchange is punctuated by Ali drenching her with a cup of his feces.

Nevertheless, an improbable kinship soon develops between them because, by golly, he likes Harry Potter, too. Forced feedings and sleep deprivation are one thing, but the library cart providing every Potter book except The Deathly Hallows? Now that's torture.

Writer-director Peter Sattler says he consulted the Guantanamo operating procedures released by WikiLeaks, and there's verisimilitude in the camp's physical design and suffocating air of hopelessness. However, the byplay between Amy and Ali feels procedurally and emotionally inorganic, a shoehorned plot device seemingly inspired by The Silence of the Lambs. "Cut the Hannibal Lecter shit," our substitute Clarice Starling says at one point.

As Amy and Ali's platonic rapport reaches its climax, Sattler shrewdly shifts the camera perspective so the audience now views Amy behind glass, driving home the notion that she's locked in her own psychological prison. However, it comes during a ludicrously overwrought final act that doesn't bear out their—or the film's—journey from bile duct to tear duct.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Friend zone"

Tags:

  • Kristen Stewart and Peyman Moaadi star in Peter Sattler's film

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Film Review



Twitter Activity

Comments

Thanks for spoiling the movie. Just because you didn't like it doesn't mean you have to ruin it for everyone …

by Carly L. on The Book of Henry Is a Blatant Tearjerker Whose Elaborate Plot Serves a Useless Solution (Film Review)

I was an undergrad at Duke when The Handmaid's Tale was filmed. I remained on campus during spring break and …

by PeterH on A Forgotten The Handmaid’s Tale Movie Filmed in Durham Is the Missing Link Between Classic Novel and Hulu Hit (Film Review)

Most Read

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

Most Recent Comments

Thanks for spoiling the movie. Just because you didn't like it doesn't mean you have to ruin it for everyone …

by Carly L. on The Book of Henry Is a Blatant Tearjerker Whose Elaborate Plot Serves a Useless Solution (Film Review)

I was an undergrad at Duke when The Handmaid's Tale was filmed. I remained on campus during spring break and …

by PeterH on A Forgotten The Handmaid’s Tale Movie Filmed in Durham Is the Missing Link Between Classic Novel and Hulu Hit (Film Review)

I also loved this movie when it came out. Having just recently rewatched it, I'm surprised by how many details …

by Jase Wells on A Forgotten The Handmaid’s Tale Movie Filmed in Durham Is the Missing Link Between Classic Novel and Hulu Hit (Film Review)

What a great story, thanks Allison! I remember seeing this movie in high school and loving it. I never made …

by Glenn McDonald on A Forgotten The Handmaid’s Tale Movie Filmed in Durham Is the Missing Link Between Classic Novel and Hulu Hit (Film Review)

Just saw Pitch Perfect 3 trailer. Looks like its going to be another year of fun ride. Incredibly excited to …

by Andrew190 on Dueling college a cappella groups in Pitch Perfect (Film Review)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation