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Review: Camp X-Ray

Camp X-Ray
10.13.2014
6 10

PLOT: A soldier assigned to a Guantanamo Bay detention facility befriends one of the men held there. Soon, both find themselves facing challenges from their peers as their unlikely friendship grows.

REVIEW: In writer director Peter Sattler’s feature film directorial debut CAMP X-RAY, the filmmaker explores an unusual friendship. This is not a black and white look at what happened at a temporary detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, and the suspected terrorists held there. At times, this is an intriguing story examining the relationship between an American soldier and one the “detainees” held there. There is no real sign that he was, or wasn’t, a terrorist with the information given about the man held there for eight years. We only know that he is a suspected terrorist and clearly troubled as he seeks out companionship from a young soldier, played by Kristen Stewart. Whatever his motives are it is initially unclear.

As the soldier, who at first follows the rules of conduct dealing with those held, Kristen Stewart is fine here. Yet it requires very little emotion or intensity. This is Ali’s story, with a marvelously strong performance by A SEPARATION star Peyman Moaadi. He approaches Stewart awkwardly and even humorously at first, their initial conversation revolves around his desperate need to get the latest “Harry Potter” book – one that is currently not available in the detention library selection. Moaadi plays Ali as a man who may be wrongly confined, yet there are times where you question his sanity, his honesty and his reasoning. It is a layered performance, one that works especially well off of Stewart’s stalwart soldier.

For the most part CAMP X-RAY is a character driven piece with only a seemingly minor political purpose. Of course it is obvious on which side of this controversial subject the filmmaker is on, yet it isn’t necessarily one-sided. Both the guards and those confined offer up a couple of villainous characters, however the emphasis remains on Moaadi and Stewart and the unique bond they discover. This is not a romantic tale, just a story about two people on different sides who find solace in each other. And while the relationship does work, it feels a little forced at times especially since it starts off as rough as it does – early on he does something pretty despicable to Stewart whom he calls ‘Blondie.’

Politics aside, Sattler keeps the dialogue heavy drama visually interesting. Much of the piece takes place in or outside the cell with the two playing opposite each other. This could have easily felt overly staged and become a very stale viewing experience had it not been for the way he creates tension. This is especially true in the beginning as the motives of Ali are unclear.

CAMP X-RAY is at its best when Moaadi’s Ali is explored. It is a fascinating character, one which is given depth thanks to Moaddi’s work. Unfortunately, Stewart and the other soldiers (as well as those detained) aren’t nearly as powerful on their own. One storyline featuring a superior officer causing trouble for Stewart is never fully developed. This is a wasted opportunity to give a little more dramatic intensity to her character, yet it is completely discarded near the end. This is not the fault of the actor playing her superior at all. Lane Garrison does a good job when he is given the chance.

Essentially a two-character drama, CAMP X-RAY is at times an impactful piece. It explores provocative territory and features a terrific performance from its leading man. As for Stewart, it is refreshing to see her move further away from TWILIGHT, and this is certainly a better performance than the eternally lovelorn Bella Swan. As far as the accuracy of what happened at Guantanamo Bay, this is sure to be picked apart by many. Ultimately though, this is a fictional drama that is occasionally enthralling thanks to Peyman Moaadi’s performance.

Source: JoBlo.com

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