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USA 2014
Directed by
Peter Sattler
111 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Camp X-Ray

Although one might with reason accuse debut writer-director Peter Sattler of offering a rather romanticized if not downright sentimental view of his subject matter, on the other hand the possibility it holds out for peace, love and understanding is not to be sneezed at.

Amy Cole (Kristen Stewart) is a rookie soldier and a new guard at Guantanamo Bay who finds herself thrown into the deep-end of male-dominated military life on the one hand and the alien world of Muslim fundamentalism on the other.  Whereas her fellow soldiers have little capacity for or inclination to ask questions of their role, the observant, self-contained Cole, who has joined the army to escape her small-town roots and do something worthwhile with her life  immediately registers the skewed universe in which she finds herself. This of course makes her vulnerable, something which she fights against, throwing herself into the blokey antics of her peers but ultimately the pull to understand the point of view of her charges leads her to befriend one of the “detainees”,  Ali Amir (Payman Maadi).

Sattler makes excellent use of his resources (the film was actually shot in an abandoned juvenile prison just outside Los Angeles) and the relatively confined parameters of his narrative with his two main protagonists separated by the walls of a prison cell and having only a narrow panel of glass with which to see each other.

Stewart is superb as the doughty young soldier who is experiencing an identity crisis, torn between the military code to which she has willingly subscribed and her natural humanity which rebels against it. She is ably supported by Payman Maadi who many will recognize as the beleaguered husband in the 2011 Foreign Language Oscar winner, A Separation and as her immediate superior, Lane Garrison. 

Although the subject matter has lost a good deal of its topicality, for its performances, deft execution  and quietly hopeful spirit, Camp X-Ray is well-worth seeing.




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