Monday, September 8, 2014

'Camp X-Ray' Reviews & Reactions (Part 2)

| PART 1 (Sundance reviews) |




Please keep in mind that reviews can contain spoilers, lots of spoilers, and that negative reviews can be interesting to read.
If you have more reviews, feel free to email me. :)


REVIEWS

•• Au Café Des Loisirs, Cyril Maucort: Rating: 8.5/10
With this first movie, Peter Sattler immerses us in the hell of Guantanamo. We follow the soldier Amy Cole who lands in these corridors full of surprises, but also adrenaline. A motto to follow, not to sympathize with the inmates. Far from blockbusters, we have Kristen Stewart in the role of the female soldier. Casual and comfortable in these rangers, Kristen Stewart surprised us in this hard role both physically and psychologically. She convinced us from start to finish. Peyman Moaadi which is like a partner, plays his character perfectly he produced an intense and moving performance. As for Lane Garrison he impressed us with his strength and plays a firm soldier who will do anything to not let anyone get in his way. The rest of the cast bring a psychologically strong and heavy key in the corridors of hell. The staging is carried by a beautiful music.

With Camp X-Ray, Peter Sattler takes us into a nightmare that will not leave us indifferent and will make us think a lot. Carried by an incredible cast and a perfect Kristen Stewart we are totally satisfied thanks to their talent. Camp X-Ray takes us into an intense, powerful and tough but also deeply moving place.


•• Clap Magazine, Sébastien Normand: Rating: 4/5
Peter Sattler, for his first movie, deals with the heavy subject of Guantanamo: foiling the pitfalls of a controversial subject and denouncing in a subtle way, the inhuman conditions of detention, Sattler succeeds in his bet and positions himself as a possible successor of the director of Born on the Fourth of July born and Platoon.

On September 11, 2001, Oussama Ben Laden and his buddies, in addition of the atrocities committed, signed a blank check to the Bush administration. The United States, built on violence, not short on slip-ups (atomic bombs), step into the breach, shocking on a regular basis the international opinion. Especially with the camp of "detainees" at Guantanamo (not a camp of "prisoners", we learn in the movie: the detainees are not within the scope of the Geneva Convention, they are deprived of all their rights). Regularly blamed, promised to close (by Bush then by Obama), Guantanamo has rarely been treated in movies: you must have broad shoulders with the many accumulating traps.

Neutrality seems out of place (being neutral, is endorsing), but the charge can't be too violent. And that's where the director succeeds beautifully. With a clinical direction, nearly documentary (it only leaves the camp the time of two sequences and shows military routines after military routines - at the mess, on guards...), he denounces with small touches the conditions of detention, without ever rocking the boat: small humiliations, light lit all day and night in the cells, food eaten by the nose by force... Above all he avoids the pitfall principal: he never transforms the American military into monsters torturers. They do their job, without much perspective on the general situation (as noted by a leader, the job of everyone, including him, is to obey his superior) but ultimately ar never out of control, and may even be able (especially for the heroine), of empathy. And thanks to that, gradually a relationship emerges, if not ambiguous, at least friendly and respectful between the soldier Cole and the detainee Amir (about which we'll never know if he's guilty of anything, or just suspected): she will help him to hold on, while at his contact she'll see her convictions.. fail. Carried by a very good Kristen Stewart (whose acting skills can't be overshadowed by Twilight) and an impressive Payman Maadi (A separation), this duo seems to mean that not everything may be screwed. A simple, moving, engaged, first movie: we hope hear more from Peter Sattler very soon.


•• Mondociné: Camp X-Ray impresses with its elegant staging, by the power of its controversial and courageous story, or the quality of its performances (A wonderful K. Stewart, a very good Peyman Moaadi).


•• USA Today, Brian Truitt: Hidden among the tabloid exposés, paparazzi stalking and everything else that goes with the Kristen Stewart Celebrity Experience is the fact that she's actually a pretty good actress.

There's more to her skill set than the lip-biting and fawning over vampires that comprised much of her Bella Swan in the Twilight movies, and Stewart shows it in the gripping military drama Camp X-Ray.

Sattler digs into both sides of those cell doors, exploring the combative side of soldiers having to "babysit" detainees while those inside the prison walls are driven mad by their lack of sleep and unfortunate conditions.

The soldiers — and the audience — are not privy to why the majority of the detainees are there, which makes it easier to relate to them on some level. If it was clear that they were terrorists responsible for deaths, it might not be as simple from a moviegoing standpoint.

Stewart matches the strong impression she made in films earlier in her career such as Panic Room, In the Land of Women and especially The Cake Eaters. She deftly handles the simmering emotion that a soldier has to tamp down for superiors and prisoners alike. Over the course of the film, Sattler masterfully contrasts scenes where Cole anticipates looking in Ali's windowed cell, first with fearful disdain and with care later on.

It's that kind of performance, while holding her own with misogynistic soldiers and combing her hair with a plastic knife, that makes Stewart's talent stand at attention more than anything else.



•• La Bobine sélective, AL Soyez: I'm happy to say that I have here the best movie since the beginning of the festival. This story of a friendship between a soldier played by Kristen Stewart and an inmate played by Payman Maadi sounds very right and pushes us to tears. The fact that it's a first movie is even more surprising given the mastery shown by Sattler (directing of actors, rhythm...). Let's cross our fingers now that the movie will find a French distributor soon.


•• Rolling Stone: The first of two Kristen Stewart vehicles this fall that should help put all that Twilight brouhaha in the rearview mirror (see also Clouds of Sil Maria), this military drama finds the former Bella Swan playing a Guantanamo Bay guard who reluctantly befriends one of the detainees. For anyone who thought Stewart's talents simply extended to pouting and whimpering, this chewy indie proves that yes, the young woman does indeed have some impressive acting chops.


•• Forbes, Scott Mendelson: Kristen Stewart delivers another solid low-key dramatic turn in this well-acted but slight Gitmo prison drama.

I wish I could tell you that a film like Camp X-Ray was a decade overdue, that it’s relatively by-the-book relationship drama between a young female Gitmo guard and a longtime resident of said prison was a tale told too late. But here I am, writing this review on the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and Guantanamo Bay is still open for business, with around 155 detainees still locked up mostly because we as a nation and as a political body lack the will and/or courage to close down what has is a preeminent symbol of how America lost its ideals as a result of the attacks. Since Guantanamo Bay is still open, and the perception is still that those who were captured and those who remain detained were basically the Legion of Doom of would-be terrorists (not so), then I suppose a somewhat simple “shared humanity” fable like Camp X-Ray still serves a certain amount of value, even if I would imagine that 99% of those who see it will already be among the “converted” in terms of the moral drama it attempts to tell. Moreover, the film’s relative softpedaling seems targeted at not bothering that 1% all that much over the course of its narrative.

Kristen Stewart is engaging and Payman Moaadi avoids the “noble savage” cliché with ease. The performances are stronger than the film which contains them, but since the picture is mostly a two-hander that’s not entirely a fatal flaw. The film starts with footage of the 9/11 attacks and the opening scenes are suitably claustrophobic and intense. Stewart plays a new transfer at Guantanamo Bay while Moaadi plays an eight-year long detained occupant with whom she forms a relationship. It’s certainly not anything remotely romantic, and even calling it a friendship would be raising the bar a bit too high. But despite an initial incident of would-be assault, something resembling an emotional connection does develop. It is to writer/director Peter Sattler’s credit that the film doesn’t allow the characters to monologue about their feelings.

We get certain nasty details about the camp itself (the lights are never turned off) and a few biographical details from its leads (Stewart’s soldier joined up to “do something important”), but the tone is more static than harsh, and the film seems to almost soft-pedal the very real moral and practical breaches that occurred at said prison. More outrage is felt over Stewart’s attempts to deal with indifferent or sexually-inclined male superiors than with anything that occurs to the inmates. For much of the running time, this feels like a Gitmo drama for those who don’t want to be too disturbed by what they see and hear, something that could almost be shown in schools save for its deserved R-rating. There is of course value in that, in being a more audience-friendly examination of an important issue, but it does dilute the drama just a bit.

For a prison that is well-known as both a legal black hole and a would-be torture chamber, the choice by prison staff to withhold the final volume of the Harry Potter books doesn’t exactly work as the representation of governmental injustice. On one hand, it is impressive that the film doesn’t explicitly villainize those on either side of the wire as a group, but there are some situations where omission can be seen as an act of soft-pedaling. It may not be fair to expect a low-budget character drama to be an all-encompassing film about the long-term issues with Guantanamo Bay, but that is perhaps the accidental burden of being among the rare films to tell its story in this specific location. But by virtue of its oddly soft-pedaled outrage, Camp X-Ray wants to inform us of injustice, remind us of our shared humanity, yet let us off the hook in the end.

The story and character beats of Camp X-Ray are pretty much what anyone walking into a film called Camp X-Ray would expect. Kristen Stewart and Peyman Moaadi are quite good, and the sequences that exclusively focus on their would-be relationship make up enough of the film’s 112 minute running time for the film to qualify as an acting treat. The picture’s second act lags a bit yet builds to a mostly satisfactory, if somewhat predictable and weirdly “feel-good” climax. Nonetheless, the film just barely works thanks to its strong central performances as a look at relative morality in a place that is by virtue of its existence inherently immoral. This is a solid first step in Stewart’s path to remind us that she used to be a respective indie actress before the Twilight series turned her into a somewhat divisive global superstar. This is a solid step-one in her “Killing Bella Swan” campaign.


•• The Filmphilosopher, Michael Dean: Rating 7,7/10
Sitting down to watch “Camp X-Ray” I was expecting to see a hyper-political, “Our military is out there fighting the evil men so they can’t kill you in your sleep” type of movie. I was pleasantly surprised at what I got instead. Writer/director Peter Sattler went with an entirely different, and far more interesting approach. The film focuses almost completely on human interaction under extreme circumstances. No political preaching. No good guys vs. bad guys. Just humans who are having to cope with being stuck in a place they don’t want to be with no control over their own situation.

Now… I am going to say something here that is strange and foreign to me. Kristen Stewart gives her best performance in this film. I have long been a huge critic of Ms. Stewart’s acting abilities (it does not help that she is mostly known for the “Twilight” films which I loathe). In “Camp X-Ray” though I quite enjoyed her performance. Is it Oscar worthy? No. But, the interaction between her character Pvt. Amy Cole and Ali (Moaadi) is what successfully drives this film. The conversations between the two seem very natural, and the bond that they form is believable and allows the viewer to be sucked in to the emotionally charged story.

Sattler seems to be a very capable director and story teller. The cinematography is sharp and the story unfolds at a very good pace. I am excited to see his future work.

All in all, I really enjoyed this film. It was a surprising, original take on the military movie. I recommend it to anyone who likes a good story with powerful emotions. Probably not suited for people who like movies with a ton of action or eye candy.


•• Flickering Myth, Gary Collinson: Rating 4/5
Without overstating it, Stewart and Maadi are far and away the best things about this film. They manage to play this relationship with a tenderness and raw honesty that is both wonderfully bewildering and always believable.

Having never been a fan of Stewart, she surprised me in this picture with her tenderness and simplicity. I was expecting another wooden and tedious performance but she manages to show a vulnerability that is both beguiling and heart-wrenching.

Another remarkable thing about Camp X-Ray is that it manages to achieve a tone that is both sombre and sparkling at the same time. We flit between moments of incredible tension and sadness to flashes of warmth and levity that give you some much needed respite. One scene in particular is especially brilliant. Close to tears yet unable to cry because of the knife-edge tension, you feel utter relief as the scene ends before a wave of sadness flows over you – truly a remarkable feat for just five minutes of the film.

All in all, this film manages to put you through the emotional grinder without ever feeling forced or heavy-handed. An excellent cast supported by a wonderful script and perfectly crafted pacing makes this film truly remarkable and an absolute must-see.


•• Movie Nation, Roger Moore: Rating 2,5/4
Much respect for Kristen Stewart, the “Twilight” star who could have contented herself with “Snow White” films or globe trotting, nibbling on bonbons and dating the rich and the beautiful for the rest of her life.

Instead, she’s doing daring indie fare like “Camp X-Ray,” an inside Guantanamo melodrama about a soldier, an Islamic inmate and the claustrophobic space they share, isolated from the world at America’s military prison for “enemy noncombatants.”

First-time writer/director Peter Sattler finds a few surprises to throw at us in this somewhat conventional “Stockholm Syndrome” story. There’s in-unit sexual tension, bullying, chain of command friction (John Carroll Lynch is Cole’s commanding officer), the mom (Julia Duffy) who cannot understand why her pretty daughter chose the Army.

The novelty is the inside view of this prison and Sattler’s ability to take us there and make us appreciate this sort of isolated incarceration. Limited human contact, sensory deprivation, media deprivation and no hope for this ever changing would drive anyone mad.

And the ever-engaging Stewart, by her presence, got the movie made and builds empathy, both for the soldiers doing this thankless job, and the detainees, who don’t even have the hope of a quick death as an escape.


•• Axonpost, Erwan Kaseo: The military camouflage outfit suits her quite well and she's doing well in this really not easy part to play for a young woman. Between sensitivity and fortitude, Kristen Stewart is moving and carries on her shoulders this intimate film shot almost entirely in a prison. She makes of this feature film, a powerful and intense movie, with her ​​acting and the strong relationship she builds with Ali, the inmate played by Peyman Maadi.

Far from blockbusters, this movie allows her to show another side of her acting and reveals that she could become a great actress just like Jodie Foster, Juliette Binoche, Julianne Moore, Charlize Theron and other co-stars from her previous movie.


•• Oblikon.net, Tom Delanque: Noté 3/5
The pace of the movie is slow, just like life on the base. The daily routine is set for 8 years now, since the opening of the prison, and the soldiers always do the same things, always the same procedures to monitor inmates. And Camp X-Ray talks about this routine, routine actually quite similar for inmates and prison guards. This routine is wise in its pace and violent in its acts, which aims to monitor the most dangerous inmates (and not prisoners) having lost all contact with the world for nearly a decade now.

Camp X-Ray is not trying to violently denounce what happens at Guantanamo, it does not call into question the potential terrorist activity of inmates. It just tries to remind us that these inmates are first and foremost human beings, and that they also have a story, a life, passions. After 8 years in prison, and with no hope of release (not even suicide), the only expectation of prisoners is the last Harry Potter book, or to do more football juggles that their fellow inmates.

Powerful in its message, Camp X-Ray manage to be moving with a good interpretation of Kristen Stewart and a perfect Peyman Moaadi in the role of the inmate aware of his situation, who lost his life but does not have the right to die.

Though it is certainly not at the same level as Full Metal Jacket, Camp X-Ray reminds us once again that America (and American cinema in particular) knows how to hit where it hurts and is not in denial about its mistakes. Anyway, about post-9/11, it is certainly so far the most successful movie.

•• Cloneweb, Alexandre Loos: Well, Kristen Stewart never stops to surprise us. After an excellent performance in Sils Maria, she does seem to make sure to break away from her inexpressive vampire lover role. In Camp X-Ray, she plays a young soldier at Guantanamo who befriends a jailed terrorist. Truly possessed by her role, Stewart single-handedly carries the movie and the duet she embodies with Peyman Moaadi (you may have seen in A Separation) works brilliantly.

Funny, moving and always right, Camp X-Ray is a real achievement, a great story of friendship and a great look on the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, but also on the physical and psychological condition the soldiers need to endure this job. We realize that both are just as much imprisoned. The directing itself is also excellent, smooth, understandable, the script is smart and you do not fall once in pathos or nationalism.

•• So trendy, Erwan K: Directed by Peter Sattler, Camp X-Ray has just been screened at Deauville. Although they haven't seen Kristen Stewart on the red carpet, the Norman public saw the prominent role she plays in this very good movie talking about conditions of detention that prisons may know, especially Guantanamo of which we talk in this feature film.

Her character is a US soldier and shows a very strong personality. In the midst of a very masculine world that combines intimidation, moral and physical domination, she is strong. But behind this shell, she don't try and can't hide another side of her personality: her sensitivity.

So the movie Camp X-Ray rests on this strong Kristen Stewart's character and interpretation that allows you to forget her vampire costume.


•• Awards Circuit, Clayton Davis: Rating 3/5
The directorial debut of Peter Sattler is infused with a strong moral ambiguity that will make you question your own beliefs. Anchored by two magnificent performances by Kristen Stewart and Peyman Moaadi, “Camp X-Ray” is a flawed yet very affecting portrait of a relationship that develops in the most unlikeliest of places.

From an honest filmmaking standpoint, writer/director Sattler hits many of his cinematic cues that you’d expect in a movie like this. It’s full of emotion, tension, and moral questions that keep you thinking. However, the questions and emotional high-points are few and far between. At times, the film can feel awfully bloated, with fluff, and seemingly unimportant subplots that do nothing for the overall theme. There was a unique opportunity to explore queries regarding war, prison, and other things regarding politics that can be very frustrating when watching, especially since it has 117 minute run time. With all that said, when Sattler does it right, he nails it. I would be remiss if I didn’t say, I’m not looking forward to see what he has up his sleeve next.

The cinematic world tends to forget that Kristen Stewart showed such immense promise pre-“Twilight” days. A complete standout in Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild” in 2007, for which she was nominated alongside the cast at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Even in between the vampire franchise, she subtly delivered in “Adventureland,” “The Runaways,” and “On the Road.” Stewart revives her glory days as Private Amy Cole, and makes us believe in a brighter future for the tween icon. Sattler knows her limitations, strengths, and puts them both to stunning use. Emotionally charged, Stewart may have delivered her finest performance yet, even one of the best by an actress this year.

Overall, “Camp X-Ray” has many things to offer an audience member. Some of which will make you curious, some of which that will undoubtedly disappoint you. Consequently, the film will get a dialogue going between those who have seen the film. I’m excited to see how Sattler’s experience will be interpreted by the viewing public. At bare minimum, you can relish in the bravura turns of Kristen Stewart and Peyman Moaadi, two actors that are well worth the watch.


•• Digital Spy, Ben Rawson-Jones: Rating 3/5
What really happens to those souls on either side of the cell walls in Guantanamo Bay? Camp X-Ray strives for an authentic representation, opening with real news footage depicting the smouldering Twin Towers on 9/11. Yet it frequently fails to merge those aspirations of realism with the narrative structures and conventions of Hollywood cinema.

Lead actors Kristen Stewart and Peyman Moaadi deliver highly-convincing portrayals as camp guard Amy and 'detainee' Ali - the word 'prisoner' is significantly forbidden from use. Initially devoid of emotion, Amy is worn down by Ali's persistence to strike up a rapport from his cell, with their interactions and her changing outlook forming the crux of the movie.

Amy's transition is problematic, as her shift from a clearly aggressive and seemingly cold person to a warm and receptive one is extremely jarring, as if the character is controlled by plot function rather than inherent nature. It's a forced progression. None of this is Stewart's fault, who plays each scene to precision and exudes an inner melancholy that provokes intrigue about Amy's background.

Her wonderful two-handed scenes with the brilliant Moaadi, best known for Oscar-winning Iranian film A Separation, are well helmed by director Peter Sattler, who gives fluidity to such a static environment. They give life to pertinent ethical issues that make us confront what is happening in the world today, without being too didactic and judgmental.

Sadly it often feels too easy to predict what will happen next between Ali and Amy, as the storytelling devices (primarily a Harry Potter book) are so formulaic, with each payoff clearly signposted. You'd expect this contrived dramatic orchestration in sentimental mainstream Hollywood movies, not this.


•• From the women's desk, Prairie Miller: Camp X-Ray engages in somewhat of a military drama miracle. Packing in admirably and effectively a grim array of pressing issues in the real world, probing as its title implies national truths rarely covered in films and almost never in the corporate embedded media. And which include what's going down at that surreal and questionable gulag known as Guantanamo, sexual violence against females in the military, and the hundreds of US soldier suicides every year and why. Camp X-Ray is also an immensely devastating and emotionally honest and grueling dramatic showdown focusing on primarily just two characters.

One of those characters being, just as unimaginable, former Hollywood teen heartthrob of the Twilight series, Kristen Stewart. Who apparently, unlike most other movie stars in an avid quest for fame and fortune, has opted for the opposite direction. Intent on mining her talent for raw and real, meaningful hardcore drama instead. You go, girl.

Incredibly first timer young writer/director Peter Sattler daringly flips the official script of the one side to every story media and US government scenarios, in a courageous telling it like it is as to just what may be going down at Gitmo. With recently arrived army soldier Amy Cole, played by Stewart, assigned to the monotonous and unpleasant task of guard duty in a claustrophobic and hostile cell block. Where one of the 'detainees' Ali (Peyman Moaadi) - the soldiers are forbidden to call them prisoners because their unlawful US detention violates all existing international human rights statutes - attracts her alternately curious, repelled and empathetic attention.

The odd couple, in a kind of surrealistic mutual captivity at the camp confining both of them, at first approach one another in negative stereotypical preconceived notion mode. And with Cole astonished to learn that Ali, however understandably enraged at his hopeless plight, defies existing stereotypes as an educated, intellectually and artistically aspiring German national. And whose own perplexed youthful yearnings on a quest to make meaningful sense of the world, quite surprisingly mirror her own.

To say more about this delicately layered and defiant, doomed duet would dramatically diminish its resonance on screen. Suffice it to say that this brave excursion into controversial territory,cuts through that blind fog of official propaganda, relentlessly fed to the US public on a daily basis.


•• ShowBiz Forum, Harvey Karten: Rating B:
Kristen Stewart takes dynamite close-ups, allowing us in the audience to measure every nuance of emotion, while just inches away but behind a heavy door, Amir tells us of his understandable frustrations which, at one point, compels him to threaten suicide. Interestingly, though the main purpose of the guards is not to keep the prisoners in since “the walls do that,” their aim is to prevent suicide by passing by the cells every fifteen minutes, even force-feeding the most repulsive of the detainees.

Film buffs will remember Moaadi’s lead performance in “A Separation,” a more complex and dramatic movie about a married couple’s wresting with the decision of whether to seek a better life in another country or stay in Iran to look after a father afflicted with Alzheimer’s. But this is Stewart’s film, a soulful performance by an actress who is best known here for playing Jodie Foster’s daughter in David Fincher’s “Panic Room.”


•• NY Daily News, Elizabeth Weitzman: Rating 3/5
OK, haters: Here’s the movie meant to silence your complaints about Kristen Stewart’s acting range. And it might, if you can sit through all of it.

Stewart seems out to prove her potential with this solemn drama. For the most part, she succeeds. She’s appropriately vulnerable and touchingly determined as Private Cole, a young soldier who’s been assigned to patrol Guantanamo Bay.


First-time director Peter Sattler gives his two lead actors strong support, allowing them to play off each other in intriguing ways. But his screenplay is poorly paced and rather broadly drawn, leaving little room to hide the plot’s clunkier or more implausible moments.

Still, it’s smart for Stewart to be taking smaller, challenging roles like this. A few more steps forward, and she’ll fully break free from the limiting restraints of her “Twilight” years.


•• The Dissolve, Mike D'Angelo: Right from the start, this relationship feels like bullshit. Cole and Amir exist in a near-total vacuum, to the point where it comes as a shock to learn that first-time feature director Peter Sattler wrote the screenplay from scratch, as opposed to adapting a stage play. None of Cole’s fellow soldiers demonstrate anything but contempt for the people they guard, and Amir’s fellow detainees, when seen, are universally hostile. Amir, by contrast, is a huge Harry Potter fan whose first interaction with Cole involves asking her for a copy of Deathly Hallows, as he’s been waiting two years to find out how the story ends. (When Cole tells him she snitched on a colleague, he’s momentarily confused: “Like the Golden Snitch?”) Attempts at real complexity are negligible—Amir throws some of his feces at Cole early on, but the incident is completely forgotten the next time she sees him, and she holds no grudge. By the end, she deliberately looks away during suicide watch, giving him the choice to kill himself if he chooses. Maybe close bonds like this have really formed in Gitmo, but Sattler lacks the skill to make it play like more than a wish-fulfillment fantasy.

He’s cast the two lead roles extremely well, however, and that helps enormously. Stewart isn’t the revelation here that she is in Olivier Assayas’ forthcoming Clouds Of Sils Maria (which asks her to do more with less), but she does a superb job of silently conveying the internal struggle between Cole’s innate compassion and her desire to embody a badass military ideal. Her strained stoicism bounces nicely off of Maadi’s winningly garrulous performance, which he has to give almost entirely through a small window in the door of Amir’s cell. An Iranian actor best known for his sublime work in two films by Asghar Farhadi (About Elly and especially A Separation, in which he plays the conflicted patriarch), Maadi here makes a bid for international stardom, maintaining his charismatic self-assurance in English and effortlessly holding the screen even when barely visible. Amir is every inch a writer’s construction, but Maadi gives him life.

So engaging is Maadi’s presence, in fact, that it’s easy to overlook the fact that we’re never even told why Amir is in Guantanamo. Perhaps withholding that information was meant to underline that it doesn’t matter—that the “detainees” are human beings worthy of dignity and respect whether they did or didn’t participate in terrorist acts. A movie that genuinely feels that way, however, shouldn’t really feature 9/11 footage in its first shot, given that it’s set almost a decade later. Sattler seems wholly uninterested in politics, concentrating instead on generic humanism; nothing that might complicate the basic decency of his two protagonists is allowed to surface, and their progress toward mutual understanding is unimpeded. That’s plenty heartwarming—Amir even finally gets to learn whether Snape is a good guy or a bad guy!—but Camp X-Ray is a fundamentally toothless film, sanitized for viewers’ protection.


•• New York Post, Kyle Smith: Rating 2/4
‘Camp X-Ray” already feels like a throwback to an earlier era, when Hollywood cared about what was going on at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp for suspected Islamist terrorists.

Kristen Stewart plays a young soldier on guard duty who strikes up a flirtatious friendship with a handsome, clever, Harry Potter-loving detainee (Peyman Moaadi). If al-Qaida published its own Tiger Beat, he’d be on the cover of it.

Stewart’s restrained performance is affecting, the film seems well-researched about what it’s like to try to deal with Gitmo detainees who throw their own feces, and it isn’t as tendentious as the average Hollywood take on the subject. But its message is still essentially the fatuous one that there isn’t much moral difference between the people on each side of the locked doors.


•• Entertainment Weekly, Joe McGovern: Rating C+
The depiction of Guantánamo Bay as a banal, ugly hole of a place waiting to be condemned makes for a compelling first half hour in this military drama. Then freshman writer-director Peter Sattler's naive morality play kicks in—a rookie Gitmo guard (Kristen Stewart)—befriends a detainee (A Separation's Payman Maadi)—and the movie becomes a series of histrionic attempts to be, as Stewart's character says with a pout, ''Just not as black and white as they said it was gonna be.'' For real.


•• Reeling Review, Laura Clifford: Rating B
Writer/director Peter Sattler makes a strong feature debut that looks at the psychological damage and inhumane treatment of both Gitmo detainees and those enlisted to guard them. Featuring a dynamic performance from Maadi and thoughtful one from Stewart, the claustrophobic drama only falters when it leans too heavily on obvious metaphors and screenwriting cliches in its final moments.

Sattler's economical production, which could have been shot in a school basement, opened up with a couple of seaside vistas, is effective, forcing these inexperienced Marines and their unknown charges into close quarters. He never lays out any of the charges against these men, a tactic which strengthens Ali's third act speech about why he rebels. But the metaphor he uses for Amy's final political statement is overly sentimental (it's near reference to a Biblical fable illustrates how much more powerful it might have been) and the concluding, telegraphed scene is too pat (and also questionably implausible). Still, Stewart and Maadi create an intellectual romance that lingers.


•• The Playlist, Nikola Grozdanovic: Rating C-
In the current volatile climate of increasing international tension caused by terrorism, Peter Sattler chose to tackle a boiling hot subject with his first feature as a director. He’s dipped his fingers in an assortment of filmmaking jars, from being an on-set dresser for David Gordon Green to dabbling in graphic design for "Star Trek," but with his directorial debut, “Camp X-Ray,” Sattler zooms in with a microscopic look at the current political milieu and paints the ideology of the notorious Guantanamo Bay detention camp (Gitmo) with one brush. Thanks to his friend Green (who executive produced the project and was instrumental with his support), media magnet Kristen Stewart, and one of Iran’s most recognizable thespians in Peyman Moaadi, Sattler was successful in getting his film off the ground for a subject that’s clearly close to his heart (he wrote the original screenplay). Unfortunately, as clear as the lines between good and evil are in the film, so too is the line between the inexperienced Sattler and the talent he’s working with.

Whether you watch “Camp X-Ray” fully aligning yourself with its politics, or distancing yourself from them, a clear separation of cinema and state pervades the film’s merits and demerits. Of the former there are sadly only a handful, while the latter boasts large numbers even though they all stem from a single source. Some critics call Stewart miscast in the lead role, due to the obvious lack of any true military grit her characters shows. We would beg to differ. The obvious lack of true military grit is the whole point of her Amy Cole, a role the young Stewart tackles with admirable fortitude. In fact, this could be the first role that she entirely owns and where we’re hard pressed to imagine anyone else in. Her standoffish gaze works in the favor of a steadfast soldier, and once Amy’s blinders start to come off, so too does Stewart’s talent for subtle emotion. She can add “Camp X-Ray” to her recent roles in “Still Alice” and “Clouds Of Sils Maria” as proof that if you’re not taking her seriously, you’re grossly out of touch. Helping her along the way is Moaadi, most known for his brilliant turn in Asghar Farhadi’s art-house hit “A Separation.” Even while speaking some of the film’s most trite dialogue, Moaadi brings a distinguished class to the role of a much-too-one-dimensional character. Meanwhile, Jess Stroup’s score is full of harmony that illustrates the tense atmosphere as movingly as the awkwardly-on-purpose chemistry between Stewart and Moaadi.

It is in Sattler’s screenplay where all the film’s demons are found. Any sense of real attachment, genuine conflict, or emotional build-up to the cathartic climax are subdued and killed before ever getting a chance to reach us, thanks to a self-aware script bordering on the ridiculous. Can it be possible that a soldier who cites the Geneva convention and brings books to the detainees can tell one, “Thought you only read the Koran” with a straight face? When a soldier comments on the brutality of a certain program the detainees go through, the corporal whips back “And what are you? The Red Cross?” The film is full of examples like this, which ultimately render it wholly uninspiring and ineffective. “Camp X-Ray” is as transparent in its message as the title suggests, and the scan shows a malignant tumor in the very bones of the film’s structure. An on-the-nose approach smothers all subtext into submission and leaves nothing of interest alive.


•• Roger Ebert, Matt Zoller Seitz: Rating 3/5
“Camp X-Ray” has cinematic and moral intelligence. This debut feature by writer-director Peter Sattler about a female soldier stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is a quiet, patient drama that focuses on a handful of characters and plays out in a few key locations: a cell, a hallway, a prison yard, some offices. It articulates its observations and emotions through shots and cuts, and actors’ reactions. It’s also about culture clashes, patriotism, idealism, duty, and what it means to be a woman in a job defined by primordial ideas of manhood. It is not a perfect movie—a couple of developments feel shoehorned in, and the final leg squanders the goodwill built up in the preceding 90 minutes—but it’s ambitious, and it has soul. It’s one of the better mainstream American film portraits of what happened to America's psyche after 9/11: the moral numbness that set in right away, and never entirely lifted.

“Twilight” star Kristen Stewart carries the film on her slender shoulders. She plays the heroine, PFC Amy Cole, a young woman from a Florida town who enlisted in the Army to learn and grow, but now finds herself at Guantanamo—also as Gitmo, or Camp X-Ray—watching over prisoners. Sorry: detainees. It’s important to use that word instead of “prisoners” because, as Amy explains to a fellow soldier, “Prisoners are subject to the Geneva Conventions. Detainees are not.”

The filmmaker lets Stewart act Steve McQueen-style, mostly with her eyes, body and hands. Moaadi jabbers and squirms and wheedles like a Middle Eastern cousin of Dustin Hoffman. Their first talk is faintly Kafka-esque: he’s read the first six Harry Potter books and has been begging for the seventh volume for two years. Amy can’t and won’t help him, offering him a two-week-old newspaper plus whatever else is on the cart. Their conversations about reading material do such a subtle job of exploring the film’s themes (they talk about Willa Cather’s “My Antonia,” a book built around a female pioneer, as well as Harry Potter) that it’s a huge letdown when the films pays these conversations off in a boringly conventional way.

Far better are the journalistic details: the magazines and newspapers on Amy’s book cart, with women’s faces blacked out; the way inmates wrap their Korans in small white blankets, and pass the time by drawing, doing puzzles, yelling at the guards and each other, and occasionally hurling feces in protest; the way that procedure, protocol and tradition rule everything, on both sides of the cell doors.

The first half of “Camp X-Ray” concentrates on showing us what it’s like to be Amy and do Amy’s job. Sattler often photographs her in ways that either disguise her femininity or complicate our reactions to it. The first time we see her, she’s silhouetted against the sun, backlit like a Clint Eastwood gunfighter. As the story unfolds, there are many close-ups taken from behind Stewart’s shoulders as Amy walks through the camp or down a cell block corridor, or sits in a chair in the mess hall or in her apartment, thinking. Our eye naturally gravitates toward her hair, which is pulled into a tight bun. The bun is at the center of the frame during so many important scenes that it eventually seems to stand for both Amy’s tightly wound personality and her workplace predicament. She gets flack for being sexually unavailable to men, but at the same time, she’s under pressure to “man up” and not show her feelings, because that’s what girls do. (Amy only lets her hair down once in the film, before Skyping with her mom.) “Are you a soldier, or are you a female soldier?” Randy asks Amy, when she recoils from an inmate’s humiliation-as-punishment. “’Cuz I don’t have these kind of problems with soldiers.”

Stewart is great in “Camp X-Ray.” Freed of her “Twilight” obligation to enact a horror movie version of fairytale-femme situations, she seems at ease (so to speak) as a tomboy. She mines a narrow emotional range with precision. Her performance is fat-free. There are silent film-quality close-ups where you can read every fluctuation in her mood even though she’s barely moving a muscle. This is a true movie star performance. When it fails to convince, it’s only because Stewart’s acting makes the heroine seem like such a distinct, real person that when Amy talks or acts like a standard conscience-stricken movie character, we can’t accept it.

“Camp X-Ray” spirals into conventional dramatics near the end, rushing through Amy’s epiphany and Ali’s despair, and turning into the hard-edged yet sentimental buddy film you hoped it was too proud to let itself be. But it’s still worth seeing for the caliber of its acting and filmmaking. Sattler and his cinematographer, James Laxton, compose striking shots that advance the story and comment on the script’s themes without becoming ostentatiously pretty. The movie makes great use of the camp’s coldly anonymous architecture, framing guards and prisoners within rectangles and squares and converging diagonal lines, and sometimes dwarfing them in long shots that have the geometric solidity of a Piet Mondrian painting. The editing, by Geraud Brisson, juxtaposes shots in cheeky ways, as when the movie crosscuts between a Muslim call to prayer and soldiers lining up for morning inspection: the sequence is capped by a shot of the the US flag flapping in the breeze, as if to suggest that blind faith in a nation's goodness is its own kind of state religion.


•• NJ.com, Stephen Whitty: Rating 3/5
Stop hating, haters. Kristen Stewart gained an enormous number of fans with the first "Twilight" movie — and almost as many detractors. They mocked her general mopiness, her apathetic hair-twirling, her tepid line readings.

I was one of them. But, whatever. Since that saga ended, Stewart has — apart from the overdone "Snow White" movie — tried to do different things. Two new dramas — "Still Alice" and "Clouds of Sils Maria" — will arrive later this year.

Opening now, though, is "Camp X-Ray," which actually may be the boldest example of her new choices. A first feature from filmmaker Peter Sattler, the movie stars Stewart as PFC Amy Cole, a very green soldier sent, on her first assignment, to be a guard at Guantanamo.

A bored small-town girl, Cole dreamed of a being a warrior. Instead, it seems, she's been sent to be a laborer, and one with a not very pleasant job — delivering books and trays of food, mopping out filthy cells and occasionally dodging a prisoner's elbow, or spit, or worse.

It's cold, robotic work, but it's bearable — as long as you, yourself, remain cold and robotic. But then Cole does the one thing she's been warned not to: She starts talking to one of the prisoners. ("Detainees," a superior quickly corrects.) Worse, though, she starts listening. And things begin to get no easier, and far more complicated.

Yet while critics may be smirking at the idea of pale, skinny Stewart as a soldier, she doesn't look that much different from plenty of other women who enlist every year. And the flat, emotionless mask that Cole is supposed to keep in place plays exactly to Stewart's own, very guarded screen persona.

Director Sattler emphasizes that, too. For much of the movie, Stewart's face is mostly obscured. We follow her down the halls, seeing only the back of her head, her hair in a bun as tight as a fist. We glimpse her face, half covered under a pulled-down cap. It's only as she begins to open up, emotionally, that we really see her. And see how conflicted she is.

The script, admitted, feels a little too scripted at times; long dialogue scenes between Cole and Ali feel a little bit like pages from an earnest, off-off-Broadway play. Ali is a bit too obviously Westernized (he's a big Harry Potter fan) and Cole's breaking of Army rules will have many vets flinching in disbelief.

And even here Stewart, as an actress, still remains a little too buttoned-down, allowing herself only a slight quaver at one point, a single tear at the end. Certainly, under all this pressure, a young person alone would crack a little wider. Certainly, after all these years, it would be satisfying to see Stewart take on bigger emotions.

But in "Camp X-Ray," she finds a part that fits her talents perfectly. And if that doesn't make her Hollywood's most exciting actress, it does at least make her one of its smartest.


•• The New York Times, Stephen Holden: The movie takes extraordinary pains not to be an exposé of harsh prison conditions or to show acts that might be construed as torture. It is studiously neutral about the guilt or innocence of the inmates, including the detainee Ali Amir (Payman Maadi), on whom it focuses.

At the same time, it shows the fury and hatred the inmates feel toward their captors. The attitude of the guards toward their charges is summed up in a disgusted official’s description of his job as “babysitting a bunch of sheep herders.”

By staying mostly indoors, the film takes on a creepy, metaphysical dimension. For all we know, the 24-hour watches could go on until the end of time, because here there is no time, just repeated action in a sterile setting where the lights never go out. (The real-life Camp X-Ray at Guantánamo actually consisted of chain-link cages from which detainees were transferred more than a decade ago.)

“Camp X-Ray” is the first film to prove that Ms. Stewart can really act, and it makes excellent use of her sullen, enigmatic screen presence. We learn that Amy grew up in a small town in Florida where she felt confined.

The core of the film is the combative, unlikely and ultimately caring friendship that develops between Ali and Amy — whom he calls Blondie, breaking down her reserve by badgering her with questions.

Despite the movie’s gripping performances and the verisimilitude of many elements, I simply don’t believe the story. Why, for instance, is Amy permitted to engage in long late-night conversations with Ali, which gives parts of the film the stiffness and artificiality of a play? When “Camp X-Ray” finally turns sentimental, you may feel betrayed.


•• The Wall Street Journal, John Anderson: Kristen Stewart’s ability to be both teen temptress and tabula rasa works to her distinct advantage in “Camp X-Ray,” an obvious but strongly humanist drama from first-time feature maker Peter Sattler. Set in Guantanamo Bay, it concerns a U.S. servicewoman with too much makeup and too little worldview, and the prisoner who, through tenuous friendship, provides her a degree of enlightenment.

While it hardly sounds like an endorsement, one of the film’s chief assets is its appreciation of boredom—that of Ali (Peyman Maadi, so good in “A Separation”), an intellectual originally from Germany who has been reduced to pleading for the last Harry Potter book; and Cole (Stewart), a Floridian who has lived such an illiterate existence before joining the Army (to “do something important”) that she doesn’t know who Harry Potter is.

Yes, that last is a bit hard to swallow, but Mr. Sattler seems to be less interested in realism than in creating parable, despite the convincingly institutional character of his Guantanamo and its paranoid systems and blinkered detail. “Camp X-Ray” isn’t anti-American, despite much of Ali’s rhetoric. It is about the evils of ignorance, wherever it rears its ugly head.


•• Black Film, Wilson Morales: If you happened to have seen Kathyrn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, you got a glimpse as to the conditions that detainees go through while at Guantanamo Bay, the US military prison located in Cuba. It’s not a pretty site what these guys go through, but fictional or not, a good amount of research was done to present a plausible scenario.

In between The Twilight films, Stewart was just another young actress with roles in Adventureland, Welcome to the Rileys, and The Runaways, but since the franchise has ended, she’s been working hard to re-invent herself and with a role like this as well as the upcoming ‘Clouds of Sils Maria’ and ‘Still Alice,’ early buzz is that she’s on her way to doing such. She and her character Amy, are both figuring a new path in life, working to be taken serious amongst her peers. Her acting is strong, compelling, and affecting.

Moaadi, the star of Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-winning Iranian domestic drama “A Separation,” is just as strong; offering more dimensions than Stewart but able to balance them out between being dramatic, sympathetic, and at times comedic. While Stewart and Moaadi are both engaging, the same can’t be said for the others prisoners, and there lies in some of the flaws of the film. Sattler doesn’t give much of the prisoners to do but yell out and be disgusted by the system they are going through. At the same time, John Carroll Lynch is also moving enough to point out that where they are and this is what happens, so leave the emotions at home. What Camp X-Ray offers is a character study of the human heart and how it’s tested under certain circumstances from both those in command and those detains. It’s a recommended film from a newcomer director who brought out solid, genuine, and compelling performances from its two leads.


•• We got this covered, Adam A. Donaldson: Rating 3/5
Where Camp X-Ray is gripping is when it’s just Stewart and Moaadi together playing off one and other without the pretense of hot-button political allegory. Stewart gets skewered for her acting chops because of Twilight, but she’s got skills, and Sattler makes good use of her gifts. The actress plays right into Cole’s feeling of ambivalence, not just about the treatment of detainees, but about finding her place in the army and on a base that’s bigger than her hometown.

One thing that I want to point out is that the film captures the tedium of life at Guantanamo Bay quite well. There are several long takes of the guards walking in a circle around the cell block looking in on prisoners one at a time to make sure they’re not doing anything untoward, like killing themselves. As Ransdell points out the new guards, they’re not there to stop detainees from escaping; they’re there to prevent them from dying. It’s a fairly grim, but apt, assessment of their duty on the base. The cyclical nature of life in Gitmo is a recurring theme, and it adds surprising tension in the films climactic conversation between Cole and Ali.

Ultimately, Camp X-Ray isn’t going to change hearts and minds in real life, and it’s not exactly persuasive as a narrative either. It is quite compelling as a character piece though, and it’s very well-acted by the two leads who are natural, entertaining and capable of creating genuine moments of surprise and spontaneity. There’s no denying that this is a solid first feature effort from Sattler, one that shows a lot of promise and definitely marks him as a director to watch out for.


•• IndieWire, Leonard Maltin: Kristen Stewart is well cast as a young woman who joins the Army and winds up as a prison guard at Guantanamo Bay in Camp X-Ray.

First-time writer-director Peter Sattler puts his protagonist through two concurrent trials: trying to avoid establishing a relationship with the Iranian detainee she guards on a daily basis, and battling the isolation (and sexism) she experiences as the only woman on the base. The film is flawed but intriguing on both counts.

The Filmmaker stretches credibility more than once. Stewart is warned about maintaining her distance from the prisoner but allows herself to become emotionally entangled. His side of the relationship is actually more interesting. At first he treats her like any other guard: someone to be tricked, taunted, even abused. In time, he comes to realize that she actually cares about him and sees him as a human being.

Sattler creates a tangible sense of place, filling his drama with mundane, telling details of life at a remote outpost. Stewart’s stoic performance is quite good, and Peyman Moaadi (who made such a vivid impression in A Separation) is heartbreakingly believable as a man who has lost almost all hope but tries to maintain his dignity.

Like so many promising films, Camp X-Ray goes on too long: once Sattler indicates where the story is headed, his film loses momentum and tedium sets in. Still, it’s an interesting picture anchored by two solid performances.


•• Vulture, Bilge Ebiri: As Cole, Kristen Stewart is a good fit. In some of her more notable past roles, her tense, clipped delivery has read like disassociation from the material. But here, we get it. Words come in nervous bursts to her. She’s alienated from the prisoners, she’s alienated from her fellow guards, and she can’t really get off this island. Her world is as much a prison as Ali’s is. And so, Stewart’s tendency to keep her emotions bottled up becomes an asset. (Between this and the upcoming Clouds of Sils Maria, in which she’s terrific, the actress finally seems to be getting the right roles.) This is a gray, unglamorous performance, and it’s pitched just right.

At times, the screenplay itself rings curiously simplistic. Not so much in a political sense, but in the way it juxtaposes the guards’ experiences with the inmates’, and with one another. Late in the film, Cole has lunch with a soldier who complains about how much nicer the detainees have it than the guards — the kind of sentiment that’s supposed to make us groan at his cluelessness, but that rings instead like a cheap screenwriter’s ploy. We get entirely too many frustratingly pat little moments like this.

Luckily, the film is on more solid footing when focusing on the drudgery of life at Gitmo, and on the minute little interactions through which its two central figures come to know each other. That latter point is a testament to these two actors, who give these characters life, in deceptively lifeless circumstances. Watching Ali and Cole (and, of course, Stewart and Maadi), we find ourselves wishing that they would genuinely get the chance to better understand each other. Do they, by the end? We’re not sure. On that score, Camp X-Ray remains admirably open-ended.


•• Movie Mezzanine, Amir Soltani: Rating B-
The relationship between Ali and Cole develops gradually over the course of a year. Ali begins this period by throwing a cup of his feces on her in an act of revolt and ends by sharing one of the most intimate moments of his life with her through the barrier of a small glass window in his cell’s door. In between, there are several conversations about the Harry Potter series, the seventh book of which Ali desperately wants but cannot find in the camp library. Most of their interactions are written and directed with a heavy touch, with one particular conversation about a caged lion Amy once saw in a zoo especially worthy of an eye roll. However, Moaadi and Stewart paint such stellar portraits with the limited palette they are offered that they elevate the film well above its text. Moaadi, in particular, who is getting a rare chance for an Iranian actor to shine in a prominent role in an American film, brings a level of grace and humor to the role that frees it from its geographic and thematic limitations. Much like in Rakhshan Bani-Etemad’s festival hit Tales, Moaadi is easily the best thing about his film. One only wishes the rest of it could match the nuance and energy of his performance.


•• Metro, Matt Prigge: Rating 3/5
“Camp X-Ray” has a terrible title and a far too simplistic plot. It concerns a fresh fish Gitmo guard (Kristen Stewart) meeting a longtime detainee (Peyman Moaadi), who is almost certainly not a terrorist. Will she learn that not all Muslims are bad? Yes. Will he learn that not all Gitmo guards are sadists? Yes. Will he also get his hands on “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” after having asked previous guards for it and so far clearly been fed a pack of lies? Happily, yes. (Will it ever paint the other detainees as anything other than scary hotheads without even a shred of humanity? Sadly, no.)

But foregone conclusions — even ones played as earnestly as they are here — aren’t in themselves causes for alarm. “Camp X-Ray” is a form of comfort food — or, well, the kind of comfort food that involves man’s state-sanctioned inhumanity to man. It’s the kind of movie that would have come out between 2005 and 2007, when theaters were flooded with sincere, ultimately square and powerfully unsubtle takedowns of the War on Terror and the post-9/11 Bush II administration. The film’s truancy gives it the illusion of being deeper than it seems.

It’s also far better made than films like “In the Valley of Elah,” “Rendition” and “The Green Zone,” where message, no matter how noble and correct, not only trumped artistry but sometimes destroyed it. “Camp X-Ray” is never subtle; everything one expects to happen happens. But care went into its filmmaking, its performances and even its characterizations. Mostly a series of conversations set in a single, brightly-lit, white hallway, it likes to hang tight on Stewart and Moaddi’s faces. They’re never in the same shot, and in fact the cinemascope frame stresses their isolation further, stranding them in frames with no one nearby. It’s never monotonous; with very little wiggle room cinematographer James Laxton finds eternally fresh ways to shoot two people talking through a thick window.

Stewart’s very good, and that shouldn’t be surprising. Before being sucked up into the “Twilight” vortex — and its resulting tabloid mania — KStew was a respectable actress. Even when she was in the midst of the beast, she would do fine work in “Adventureland,” “The Yellow Handkerchief” and “The Runaways.” She’s downright great, opposite Juliette Binoche, in Olivier Assayas’ forthcoming “Clouds of Sils Maria,” and here finds shaded work as a tough-acting newbie who wears her vulnerability and humanity on her face (and through the actress’ trademark nervous chuckle).

She holds her own against her even better screen partner. Previously seen as the co-lead in “A Separation,” Iranian actor Moaadi doesn’t do the noble, nice good guy. His character has been driven to near-insanity by eight years in Guantanamo; when he tries to make friends with guards he comes off aggressive, even bitter — an uncontrollable force of nature who makes himself hard to like. His impatience with people and his anger help put off the inevitable about-face, which is fine: It’s enjoyable to listen to them bicker then bond, not because of what they’re saying but because of their gifts as performers. It almost doesn’t matter what they’re talking about, which would be just as well.


•• HeyUGuys, Lisa Giles-Keddie: Rating 4/5
It seems like ages since Guantanamo Bay was major headline news; its questionable purpose both fascinating and repulsive in equal measure. Debut writer-director Peter Sattler’s new prison drama, Camp X-Ray based in the Cuban lockdown is a cinematic nudge to remind us of this Kryptonite rock still weighing around the United States’ neck.

Just the title alone piques the interest, but this is much more than ‘a drama set in Gitmo’ (as it’s affectionately known). Camp X-Ray is an intense character study of life in incarceration for guard and guarded, without angling for obvious shock tactics. Its core ‘relationship’ is used to tentatively explore the line between whose ‘right and wrong’?

The intriguing and overriding factor of this story is both characters are ‘trapped’, though for different reasons. The mood bristles with tension from this alone, without resorting to the usual, foreboding prison-drama build-up, before trouble ignites. This is very much a unique meeting of minds, with both characters’ back stories left ambiguous as to what landed them there. In this sense, we are left to make up our minds as to Ali’s ‘guilt’, rather than be subjected to possible incriminating visuals.

This ambiguity works in the plot’s favour, allowing us to get to know the characters as they stand in their current situation, without any baggage influencing our judgement. All we do know is Cole is in the Army – though she doesn’t seem entirely happy – and Ali has a love of Harry Potter books. Even the latter’s religious commitments remain questionable. Sattler’s script does well to reveal tit bits when the moment calls for it. That’s not to say that the filmmaker’s overall critical view of Gitmo is not apparent, but he does well to not throw in his full hand up front.

Sattler’s film works well because his casting is on the mark. Stewart is known for her awkward screen portrayals. As Cole, she plays to her strengths, relying on all that Twilight Bella frustration to find its outlet in a soldier in emotional turmoil. It’s a meatier role for her natural talents in this respect, and combined with blunt retorts, allows her to effortlessly flesh out Cole as struggling to retain self-control but bursting with unanswered questions. That said the female soldier still comes across as a little two-dimensional until the confrontation scene near the end that redeems this. The majority of her screen time is spent getting to this point, mostly witnessing a soldier who doesn’t fit, but without having more clear insight as to why?

Once again, Moaadi delivers another finely layered performance, this time as Ali, maintaining the mystery surrounding him while cultivating an edgy presence as to his next movement – one of benevolence or violence. Ali is not just the terrorist folk devil but also a repressed human being, making him the only truly exciting character. His origins and thought processes keep you guessing so driving the plot. Even in a revealing moment, we are still not entirely sure as to his next move. The ending feels a little far-fetched and desperate to leave a positive spin. Still, J K Rowling must find it rather bemusing that her wizard franchise is woven into a Gitmo narrative if nothing else.


•• Onlike, MG: Pretty career-path for Kristen Stewart this year, delivering roles far from her noctural compositions. After a remarkable SILS MARIA, she's really the one taking the lion's share in CAMP X-RAY.


•• Gala, Carlos Gomez: Rating 3/5
The absent aren't always in the wrong. Monday night, Kristen Stewart didn't attend the Deauville Premiere of her latest movie, but she managed to get only friends, warmly applauded at the end of the Camp X-Ray screening. A remarkable first-movie for Peter Sattler, who was there, on the C.I.D stage to introduce his film.

In khaki fatigues and rangers, the co-star Juliette Binoche in Clouds of Sils Maria gets raked over the coals in this lawless world, while demonstrating an obvious and free from any kind of effect, talent. Beautiful, good, simple, nowhere near the excitement and hysteria the young American star causes in Anglo-Saxon tabloids.


•• France info, Jacky Bornet: Rating 3/5
For his first movie, Peter Sattler hasn't taken the easy way. Screenwriter, on an original subject, and director of "Camp X-Ray", he deals with the sensitive issue of Guantanamo, where suspects of the September 11, 2001 attacks and Al Qaeda are "detained". A challenge. Moreover, with a military woman in the leading role. But a wonderful Kristen Stewart comes to the rescue.

[..] He was lucky to have Kristen Stewart in this role who, on all fronts, made ​​a remarkable performance.

The filmmaker says immediately that his approach is apolitical. What interests him are the human relationships in an extreme environment. Obviously, those related to the "detainees" are privileged. That's why the whole movie revolves around the encounter between Amy Cole (Kristen Stewart) and 471 - Ali (Peyman Moaadi), a "detainee", who never stops talking to her, in order to manipulate her. But not only. Warned not to get involved in a dialogue with the jailed, Amy, naive, gradually gets carried away in secrets that will bring her the backlash from Ali, then her superiors. If this narrative progression is handled well, the last third of the film is less credible and more sweetened, sinking in a less credible sentimentality. You can really recognize the American cinema that likes smooth the rough edges. But otherwise, the game is worth the candle.

TWEETS

RT @BobineSelective 'Camp X-Ray' best #Deauville2014 movie so far. Two actors at the top. The tears were not far away.

RT @MgCinema CAMP X-RAY, the movie telling you how Harry Potter ended at Guantanamo. But Kristen Stewart is surprising. That's twice in a row with #SilsMaria, attention to the habits...

RT @AnaBerno Indeed Camp X Ray talks neither political, nor really about prison, but the story of these 2 people meeting each other is superb.

RT @Silence_Action Search of humanity in Guantánamo, strong and delicate subject that "Camp X-Ray" deals with an interesting look. And #KristenStewart delivers a strong performance, divided between military authority and feminine humanity.

RT @mulderville #KristenStewart Moving, masterfully interpreted, intelligent and memorable

RT @Cafedesloisirs #CampXRay brings us in Guantanamo an intense, powerful & hard place. #KristenStewart is excellent. Great movie!

RT @NicoBalazard #CampXRay first #Deauville2014 favorite it is fine and very well played, many emotions. Maybe too nice

RT @AnaBerno #campxray : I found my #deauville2014 favorite! Very moved by this story subtly filmed. Kristen is on top.

RT @romainguinot #CampXRay is really good. Best of 4 seen today @DeauvilleUS ! K Stewart is on a roll, twice in a row after Sils Maria

RT @InesBen "Rated 'Camp X-Ray' 5/5 on Allociné

RT @MgCinema #CampXRay starts where ends #AmostWantedMan. Troubling American chronic. #deauville2014

RT @djphilip Kristen Stewart perfect as a Guantanamo prison warder in Camp XRay

RT @JonhdoeJohndoe #CampXRay#KristenStewart good film with a new look on the prisoners of Guantanamo ! Excellent casting

RT @lemagcinema #campxray is the first good surprise. Beautiful interpretation of #KristenStewart, beautiful subject, good handling. End.

RT @LaurencePlainfo #CampXRay is powerful. Despite the violence and darkness, the tiny flame of humanity resists and helps us to believe in it. #Deauville2014

RT @Regardezmoica #CampXRay with #KristenStewart, it's great ! Beautiful movie about humanity and injustice ! Bravo #PeterSattler and Kristen ! #Deauville2014

RT @stb14730 Saw last night @CampXRayMovie at #Deauville2014 . Congratulations Mr. SATTLER, great movie ! #KristenStewart and #PeymanMoaadi are excellent.

RT @moodfdeauville #campxray sensitive movie on the brutal prison environment, fable with the loneliness of a guard and prisoner. Bluffing K. Stewart

RT @BrandonTXNeely Camp X-Ray is one of those movies that days later your still thinking about was truly a powerful movie in my eyes

RT @ShelbyyHudson Just watched Camp X-Ray. Bawling my eyes out it was so good. Kristen Stewart was amazing.

RT @Joshua_Girardin #CampXRay just WRECKED me. Such a powerful movie. I dare you to tell me Kristen Stewart can't act.

RT @lovablekrystal camp x-ray is definitely 5/5. a. must. watch. i'm proud to say this; KRISTEN STEWART IS A GODDESS, HANDS DOWN.

RT @akaShareefAadmi #CampXRay WHAT A MOVIE!! Brilliant performances by #KristenStewart and PaymanMaadi. Must watch guys

RT @akaShareefAadmi I think this is #KristenStewart best performance

RT @SeanMBurns CAMP X-RAY (2014, Sattler, ***) Guess I shouldn't be surprised Jodie Foster's daughter from PANIC ROOM makes such a great Clarice Starling.

RT @ISF_KingwoodTX Watched Camp X-Ray very moving and well done movie. thanks for recommending it. Snape was a good guy too.

RT @kevlogue watch camp x-ray and tell me kristen stewart is not a great actress.. phenomenal movie..

RT @BrandonTXNeely Camp X-Ray movie is more then just about right vs wrong its about the humanity in people.
Camp X-Ray movie is bringing back a lot of memories & feelings I had almost 13 years ago. The fight inside to do what you believe is right.

RT @asifstark CAMP X-RAY turns out to be even better than I had expected. Peyman Moaadi and Kristen Stewart are spectacular. Quite the controversial topic

RT @morenaya67 #CampXRay was a great movie, really touching with great acting...

RT @IngridHarrison #CampXRay so worth watching. Disturbing.

RT @ScreenRhetoric #CampXRay was wonderful. Tangibly acting from Stewart and Maadi. Incredibly emotionally nuanced.

RT @dazedsunshine WOW! Camp X-Ray. A very thought provoking movie. Kristen Stewart and Peyman Moaadi delivered solid performances.

RT @mattzollerseitz In CAMP X-RAY, Kristen Stewart gives a completely cinematic performance, all gestures and reactions. No indicating. Nothing unnecessary.

RT @KmoonlightS #CampXRay is excellent! Powerful & touching story about #guantanamo Brilliant performance from Moaddi & Stewart! #LFF2014

RT @s_ogorman92 #CampXRay is emotional, & made possible by the beautifully intense scenes between Kristen Stewart & Payman Maadi. Extraordinary chemistry.

RT @kateOFF_ Just saw #CampXRay and let me tell you one thing: Peyman Moaadi is out of this world and Kristen Stewart is outstanding. They're magic.

RT @AvaTwilighter I watched Camp X-Ray and I'm speechless and not just by Kristen's performance, which is amazing, but by the full story. Awesome. #CampXRay

RT @cceylan95 #CampXRay is one of the best movie i've seen in 2014. It's very fascinating and emotional, especially in the end.

RT @Just_Mary08 My god! Camp X-Ray is amazing! I've got chills. Everyone should see this movie

RT @DinaHishamAtta Not a Kristen stewart fan but she nailed it in camp X ray.

RT @simplytiffany I am a veteran and military wife and I support Kristen Stewart and Camp X-Ray.

RT @shawnd1211 Just watched #CampXRay WOW! #KristenStewart you are the queen! Great performance from both actors #PeymanMoaadi

RT @603sg #CampXRay One of the most emotional and best films I've seen. Fantastic performance from #KristenStewart. Best of her career. 9.0/10

RT @KLBirkett #CampXRay has set up Kristen Stewart to be one of the greatest actresses of our generation.

RT @_NinjaNerd My mind has changed about Kristen Stewart after just watching Camp X-Ray — feeling impressed

RT @Audrey_Frenchi A movie as #CampXRay who make you reflect & don't let you indifferent is worth to be seen. We need + movies like this. Great job P. Sattler!

RT @imamovielover Really liked Camp X Ray. It left me wanted to find out what happens next for these characters.

RT @jamietworkowski Just watched #CampXRay starring Kristen Stewart. Really beautiful film about the power of love and friendship.


Peter Sattler at the 'Camp X-Ray' Deauville American Film Festival Premiere

Aww he is so cute & proud when he speaks in French! :))



-----------------------------------

August 20, 2014

'Camp X-Ray' is in the official selection of the Deauville American Film Festival, but out of competition! :)


Schedule:

- Sept 8: Photocall with Peter Sattler at 4:15pm CET/ 3:15pm BST/ 10:15am ET/ 7:15am PT.
- Sept 8: Premiere with Peter Sattler at 8:30pm CET/ 7:30pm BST/ 2:30pm ET/ 11:30am PT.
- Sept 9: Screening (open to the public) at 9pm CET/ 8pm BST/ 3pm ET/ 12pm PT.
- Sept 10: Screening (open to the public) at 8:30pm CET/ 7:30pm BST/ 2:30pm ET/ 11:30am PT.

+ a NEW still
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2 comments:

  1. This still gets me so emotional, I don't know why, maybe because she (Cole) looks so sweet in that horrible environment.
    Camp X-Ray is going to be transcendent, memorable and very very emotional.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Que de bonnes critiques !! J'ai trop hâte de voir ce film, je suis vraiment contente qu'elle soit enfin reconnue, elle est tellement critiquée.

    ReplyDelete

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