Friday, November 7, 2014

More '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. :)


•• 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.

••, 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.

•• Live for films, Piers McCarthy: Rating 3/5
Having only run for four months, Camp X-Ray was one of Guantanomo’s shortest ventures, yet it had just as much of impact as the rest of the camps. Those who were detained there were punished, either fairly or harshly (depending on your viewpoint), and given no chance of getting out. Camp X-Ray, Peter Sattler’s first feature film, focuses on that moral ambiguity, using two very different personalities to front his study.

Falling short of 2 hours, the film very slowly builds on a relationship between solider/guard Pvt. Amy Cole and detainee Ali Amir. The runtime works effectively here, spotlighting themes and characteristics that need time unmasking. Both lead characters are highly complex, in an environment that seldom works above and beyond its protocol, looking for a way out. Kristen Stewart, in dire need of escaping the Twilight image, does a terrific job of portraying a soldier who is by most accounts, a conscientious objector. Her role is fascinatingly multifaceted, so to see her go from playing Bella, to Pvt. Cole, is a miraculous step up. Working off the performances of a mostly male cast (John Carroll Lynch and Lane Garrison included), she holds her own as a very strong, intelligent woman.

Joining Stewart in most scenes is the ever-wonderful Peyman Moaddi (best known for A Separation). Like Cole, Moaddi’s Amir is pensive and ill-at-ease. The back and forth between Amir and Cole is always interesting, giving insight into two cultures, genders and principles. His guilt/innocence is only ever brought up a handful of times, so it is up to the audience to respond to him accordingly. Amir also adds humour to the film, casually quipping with Cole or trying his hand at boyish charm, inside such a serious place. Without Moaddi in the role, it is difficult to picture the film as a success – his character is, oddly, the heart of the film. The film asks a lot of you, in terms of judgement, but never rams it down your throat.

While it isn’t always gripping, Camp X-Ray is a smart film, pontificating on matters of great importance. Obama has already voiced his uncertainty over Guantanamo Bay, and even if this film has its relatively neutral standpoint, it will once again raise the question over ethics.

•• I'm myself for myself: One would expect a movie about a camp to be full of tortures and some trashy scenes like that but Camp X-Ray is more cerebral. It isn't about torture or at least not about physical torture. It is way deeper than that. You can heal from a bruise, a busted lips, a broken bone but how do you heal when your wound doesn't have a chance to heal? How do you heal from a wound that you can't see? A wound that is deeper than flesh, a wound that is cutting through your soul. How would you cope if you were stolen from your home and brought in a camp thousands of miles away? How would you cope with being completely disconnected with life and people? How would you cope if you had to ask people for everything? How would deal with people telling you when to sleep, what to eat and if you refuse to eat, how would deal with people force feeding you? How would feel if you weren't in control of your life anymore? If your life wasn't yours to live? When you're locked up in a bright room all day with nothing to do, with nothing to hold, what can you do to survive? You follow the rules and you get a treat, kind of like a dog or you don't and it gets rough for you. I could go on and on with questions because that's how I feel after watching this movie. It makes me questions everything. I have more questions about it now that I had before watching it.

Ali and Cole as soldier and detainee spend most of their time talking through the cell door, which is a constant reminder of their status. Peter Sattler for his first movie does an interesting work. He uses simple but powerful plans that do the job very well. Anyway, Ali and Cole quickly developed a friendship that is dangerous for both of them because in this prison they're still at war. The camp is a direct front with the enemy and a friendship there would make them both traitors but it doesn't stop them. They relationship humanizes us. It's from the simplicity and the natural aspect of their friendship that all the questioning comes from. It is hard to do what is right in such a place because you're watched, you have heard and seen things that made you believe that these people are all evil and you also have a bit of patriotism getting in the way. Cole tried to do the right thing but one female soldier against the army on such a sensitive couldn't work. I imagine that the ending must've made a few people cry. It didn't make me cry. I smiled. I had a huge smile on my face during that final book scene. Small gestures, a little attention, a few words... A life is a life. Being human doesn't make you weak, being human doesn't make you a traitor. There is nothing wrong in being human.

Kristen Stewart has that skill of expressing a lot with very few words, with a look, a sigh, a small gesture you can get a lot from her. She's very responsive to her character and it makes it very easy to be responsive to her. Kristen Stewart delivers an outstanding performance and so does Peyman Moaadi. You cannot speak of one without speaking of the other. Camp X-Ray is them. They have these conversations that are basically small talk but they awake in you such emotions that you get the subtext behind them. That's where the movie takes its strength and power. They do a captivating job that leaves you wanting for more. I have to admit that at times it's heavy because it could've been articulated differently to make it somehow better but just like that the movie is great. A very good indie drama that made me discover Moaadi and Sattler. I'm glad I watched it and I highly recommend it. The kind of movie I'd love to see more often. Less fake, more material.

•• And Pop, Jordan Appugliesi: Written and directed by Peter Sattler, this military indie has a lot to say, but never fully gets its message across. But while it is poorly paced and never rises from its full potential, it survives off the great chemistry between its leads and gives a fascinating look at life within the walls of the prison.

With this and Clouds of Sils Maria, Camp X-Ray is the second time this year we’ve been given a strong performance from Stewart. One could even say that she seems to on a mission to prove herself post-Twilight, as she seems to be finding more and more roles that suit her range.

But while I think she is stronger in Clouds, Stewart gives a very solid and memorable performance here and completely fits the role of Cole, who is distant and lonely. Her chemistry with Moaadi is surprising, and the two of them work well off one another.

The same can also be said for Moaadi, who also gives a fantastic performance that would be more buzzworthy had this been a stronger film. In fact, if the movie was stronger overall, I’d argue that Stewart could have probably gotten herself some awards buzz as well.

Camp X-Ray’s fault is that it never really gives us much to work with. The film goes over ideas such as sexism in the military and offers a look into the lives of the soldiers and the detained men, but none of these themes are fully realized. And by the end, you’re left feeling a bit empty.

Ultimately though, the film is boosted by Stewart and Moaadi, who make the best of what they are given. But while a solid project, it would have been nice for Sattler to dig deeper into its themes.

•• 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.

••, 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.

•• Fresh from the theatre, Matthew Parkinson: Rating 6/10
Much to the disdain of the general movie-going audience, I’ve said that Kristen Stewart is a good actor for several years now. No, the Twilight films didn’t help convince anyone — neither did that Snow White abomination — nor does her public persona, which isn’t exactly endearing, but take a good look at films like Into the Wild, Panic Room, or, now, Camp X-Ray, and you’ll be reminded that this is an actor who should be in the conversation when we’re talking about promising young talent. And she’s got a lot more experience with the profession than most of her contemporaries.

In Camp X-Ray, Stewart plays private first class Amy Cole, someone stationed as a guard at Guantanamo Bay. On her first day, she gets knocked down while helping restrain a detainee. Good start. She’s told not to tell any of the inmates personal details, or to befriend them. So, as soon as a talkative man named Ali (Peyman Moaadi) begins talking to her about Harry Potter, you can probably figure out where this story is going. Yes, it is inherently funny to see Kristen Stewart discuss Harry Potter. Get over it; this isn’t meant to be a funny movie.

They strike up some sort of friendship, or at least relationships that could best be described as “friendship,” even if there’s still lots of tension between them, because one of them is an American soldier and the other is being held as a terrorist. But, still, we learn a good deal about both of them thanks to their many conversations, and the lines between good and evil begin to blur.

Camp X-Ray is also concerned with detailing the treatment of Guantanamo Bay’s detainees. It’s not exactly a criticism of the facility, but it’s also not a glowing endorsement. Some improvements definitely could be made. We spend so much time there, mostly walking up and down one specific hallway, that we notice what could be improved. But should it be improved? These people are, after all, terrorists. Or, they’re being held as terrorists. Ali claims innocence, and genuinely seems like a decent person. That’s how the film makes you feel conflicted.

Stewart is really good in this film. Her grim and intense demeanour here works as a mask — something she puts on because she’s told to, and something that slowly gets removed as the film progresses, which is a transformation worth seeing. Meanwhile, Peyman Moaadi provides more energy than you’d expect, and is the heart of the story. We need this man in more movies.

Camp X-Ray will play well to those who enjoy a good, human story, and also to those who are concerned with the well-being of those humans who are held in captivity against their will. Yes, humans. Because they’re still people. The film will make you think about this, and that, along with the drama we see unfold between its two leads, makes it worth seeing. Camp X-Ray is a solid movie with good acting. And, yes, Kristen Stewart is really good in it.

Thanks to good acting and a contemplative story, Camp X-Ray is a movie worth seeing.

•• Movie Fanatic, Joel Amos: Rating 4/5
Given how perfectly Kristen Stewart is cast as a soldier who serves as a guard at Guantanamo Bay, we’re thinking writer-director Peter Sattler had to have the former Twilight star in mind. Yes, it’s true Stewart truly comes into her own as an actress in a riveting story that challenges what we know and what we think we know.

What we also appreciate about this riveting and powerful drama is how Sattler doesn’t force feed his opinions on the subject down the audience’s throat. Through the story, the characters and how he shoots it, we’re left to draw our own conclusions. And in terms of this writer, those takeaways are not pretty. What happened on 9/11 was an absolute tragedy in the highest order, but watch Camp X-Ray and see if what is painted as the response to that horror is befitting of a country like the United States.

And for those who dismissed Stewart as a waif-ish actress who became almost iconic because of her turn that is seen when you watch Twilight online, prepare to have your mind blown.

The actress plays the emotional spectrum with such ease and command that the power of Sattler’s tale can be impeccably processed for the viewer. This is not necessarily an Oscar nomination-worthy turn from Stewart, but it sure is close. And the fact that she could someday get one of those elusive nods may not be that far off if she keeps turning in performances like the one in Camp X-Ray.

•• The Wrap, Alonso Duralde: Stone walls do not a prison make, nor does a promising concept necessarily guarantee a satisfying film. “Camp X-Ray” has a great idea behind it — a young female soldier assigned guard duty at Guantanamo Bay forms a kinship with one of the incarcerated Muslims — but first-time writer-director Peter Sattler doesn't go anywhere interesting with that notion.

Neither the soldier nor the detainee (never call them “prisoners,” we're told early, lest the the Geneva Convention apply) emerges as a particularly memorable character, and while the ongoing situation at Gitmo is a fertile topic for discussion, Sattler doesn't bring much to the conversation.

That's certainly not the fault of the actors, who labor to bring depths to the roles not provided by the script. Kristen Stewart stars as Amy, a young woman looking to shake off the dust of her small Florida town and to see the world in the U.S. Army. Alas, her first big assignment takes her not very far from home, as she becomes part of a unit that monitors detainees 24/7.

The idea of a woman in this man's army — Amy feels more and more marginalized under the thumb of the sexist Ransdell — identifying with the plight of a detainee works on paper, yes, but “Camp X-Ray” never makes the bond between this particular woman and this particular prisoner feel genuine or organic. Their relationship (platonic, obviously) smacks more of screenwriter contrivance than of two put-upon souls finding each other under duress.

Playing a soldier means a great deal of emotional restraint, which means another very internal, frequently stone-faced performance from Stewart. She's effective and empathetic, but it's not the sort of work that takes her too far from her “Twilight” wheelhouse. Maadi gets a little more room to play different shadings, but he's also saddled with the clunkiest, let's-explain-the-symbolism-to-the-audience lines.

While I have no idea how much the set resembles the actual facilities at Gitmo, director of photography James Laxton (“Tusk”) and production designer Richard A. Wright (a frequent collaborator of David Gordon Green, one of the film's executive producers) accentuate the relentlessly bright fluorescent lighting on the bland, functional surroundings. Had that same bland functionality not spilled over into Sattler's screenplay, he might have been onto something here.

•• Los Angeles Times, Betsy Sharkey: Flawed 'Camp X-Ray' still exposes truths in war on terror.

One thing director Peter Sattler gets right in the new film "Camp X-Ray" is the way life can entrap even without prison walls. Pvt. Cole, a young soldier played by Kristen Stewart, joins the Army to escape small-town Florida and ends up guarding Ali, a Guantanamo Bay prisoner played by "A Separation" star Payman Maadi. From scraps of conversation, you gather Cole was as eager to leave her home's mentality as much as the reality, only to find a different brand of small-mindedness and repression in this man's army.

It helps if you think of "Camp X-Ray" and the prison face-off between Stewart and Maadi as a cautionary conversation unfolding more like a theater production than a movie. In their tête-à-têtes, provocative moments emerge as writer-director Sattler zeros in on the unlikely and uneasy friendship that develops between Cole and Ali.

Otherwise, the drama has a tendency to slip into stereotypes a bit too easily, military misogyny, terrorist ideology and xenophobia among them. It's not that those elements don't exist in the real world, especially in places like Gitmo where being detained as a terrorist suspect can feel like a life sentence without the trial. But by boiling too much down to black and white, "Camp X-Ray's" ability to say something significant is diluted.

With that kind of cultural counterpoint established, Sattler starts escalating the hostilities between Ali and Cole. There is what should be a deal-breaker involving watered-down filth in the face. But watching the punishment that follows, something shifts inside Cole.

The film finds its footing as their fragmented conversations expand. By laying out the arguments in bits and pieces, Sattler keeps the dialogue from overstating the case. If only the other characters were drawn with as much restraint. Instead we have a sea of mostly anonymous, screaming faces in the detainees and, on the other side, jacked-up alpha males in uniform. Sgt. Ransdell (Lane Garrison), Cole's supervisor, is a particularly nasty piece of work, especially after she resists his advances.

The director, making his feature-film debut with "Camp X-Ray," comes out of graphic design, and you can see that influence in the way he's constructed the set. The cellblock, its tight walkways hemmed in by cinderblock and steel rooms, the monochromatic look mirroring the soldiers' fatigues, does much to create a claustrophobic, minimalist vibe. Director of photography James Laxton goes in close so often it can feel like the walls are coming in.

Within the constraints, Stewart and Maadi find the right rhythms to make Cole and Ali's exchanges seem real, even Ali's slight crush — the care he begins taking to trim his mustache — are humanizing.

A locked-down soldier is a good fit for Stewart's interior acting style. The skittish looks the actress slips between hard glares or icy outrage bring a kind of understated electricity to Cole. And the impact that comes when she softens, even slightly, is first rate as she continues to evolve the further away she gets from "Twilight's" teenage Bella. But there is an edginess that flows through all of her work — especially effective as a young Joan Jett in "The Runaways" — and one hopes she'll never lose that.

As to Sattler, though he stumbles in this first outing, at times mightily — the ending is too ludicrous for words — he makes room for Stewart and Maadi to build a different narrative than we're used to in the war on terror. One that allows a little understanding to creep in.

•• Nathalie Would Talk: Sattler opens the film with a shot of the Twin Towers up in smoke, which is then revealed to be current news on the television at Ali Amir's residence, played by Peyman Maadi (A Separation). Privately praying in his humble apartment, Ali suddenly has his head enveloped by a black bag and is whisked off on a boat, along with other visibly-and-audibly shielded men across the ocean. Sattler cuts to eight years later, where we follow Kristen Stewart's Army private first class Amy Cole who has just arrived to Camp Delta located at Guantanamo Bay, and stationed to guard the detainees. Informed by her superior that this is a war zone, the guards are put on suicide watch every 3 minutes. While she's just been briefed on the aggressiveness and manipulative nature of the detainees, and warned not to reveal any personal information, private Cole is the first in the group of new guards to volunteer. This solidifies her strength from our first introduction to Stewart's character. Unaware of the detainees' past actions, the fear in Stewart's face shows, yet this fear is coupled with a courageous intensity often found in Stewart's performances.

li's first meeting with private Cole is through literature, as Cole has been assigned to handing out books from the cart to the detainees. Ali's been asking for the 6th installment of Harry Potter for the past 2 years to find out if Snape is actually a good guy or a bad guy, but to no avail. Ali, as played by Peyman Maadi, is ferociously yearning for conversation with another human, but is distrusting of all the guards at Guantanamo because of his treatment for the past 8 years. The omission of Ali's supposed crime is intentional, though knowing the reason for his detainment has no significance to the story Camp X-Ray is telling. Private Cole doesn't have anything to prove, even admitting she's not seeking a Silence of the Lambs moment with Ali. Yet Cole finds herself drawn to him. It's apparent early on that a connection between Ali and Cole has already been established, and the two form a friendship through the transparency of glass. Cole faces heat from her superior after having been seen acting friendly with a detainee, though she protects herself from dark forces which Snape himself had to deter. The story leads up to an intense Oscar-worthy scene provided by powerful performances by Maadi and Stewart.

Sattler makes sure his main characters are not subject to stereotype of the prisoner/outsider relationship. The director is subtle in his buildup (think Jarhead), and although Camp X-Ray may seem slow in pace, Sattler is conveying the monotony of not only being detained, but also of being the detainer. Two souls bond against an opposing atmosphere that tells them they should detest each other. This challenging role was made for Kristen Stewart - who shows unauthorized critics who have always doubted her undeniable skills as a knockout performer. Stewart effortlessly plays Cole like a subdued superhero. Her performance is met by Peyman Maadi's moving portrayal of a possibly innocent man confined to a life of judgement, craving to break suspicion and form a connection. X-Ray does just that. It is an examination; a closer look into the perspective of an Army private grappling with right and wrong. Through Ali and Cole, there is a joining of opposite sides. Not all fences are unshakable.

•• This Is Infamous, Ramses Flores: CAMP X-RAY means well. It really, really does. It just feels like too little too late, unfortunately. Writer-director Peter Sattler has made a film set within Guantanamo Bay that tries to raise awareness of the horrible things that are going on there by telling the story of a friendship that develops over time between a soldier and a detainee. Sattler’s film wants to address some touchy issues through its tense drama, but CAMP X-RAY ends up telling a story that feels too heavy handed while always feeling too soft to really land anything truly emotional, moving, or thought provoking.

CAMP X-RAY has no real guts. That is its biggest and most crucial flaw. Sure, the film deals with a touchy subject matter, but it’s a film that is not willing to “go there” and its attempts at making Ali likeable are laughable because how forced Sattler’s writing comes off. For example. Ali befriends Cole after he begins to ask her about the seventh Harry Potter book and if the camp really does have a copy or not. The film plays this scene almost for laughs as the film wants us to think, “Woah! He’s read the Harry Potter books, too? But he’s an evil terrorist! That’s crazy!” But the scene instead feels cheap, easy, and too manipulative. The rest of the film feels the same way, too.

Sattler also constantly rushes the film’s drama while never really giving any character any real depth. This makes the dynamic between Private Cole and Ali always feel a bit off and way too rushed as their friendship never really feels natural. The film builds to these big, dramatic moments where Stewart and Moaadi are delivering dialogue on the verge of tears and as they’re fighting back the tears you wonder how the film escalated to this point so quickly when their friendship never feels special or especially profound.

It’s also just weird how the film goes through so many unnecessary hurdles to make Ali likable. It’s also especially weird how he’s the only detainee who can speak English and the only one who is given any personality whatsoever. It gives the film an accidental off putting vibe to it whenever it focuses on the prisoners. It’s strange that a film that is trying to make a point about treating prisoners like humans only chooses to humanize one. It makes the film’s point feel moot and is one of the many reasons why the film doesn’t manage to have any bite to it at all.

Kristen Stewart and Peyman Moaadi do the best they can with the material they are given, though. Stewart is faced with the task of having to give an emotional, layered performance within a character who has to follow orders and maintain her composure no matter how stressful the situation may be. This makes Stewart have to use her body language to make us aware of the struggles going on inside her mind. Stewart ends up turning in a performance that may be too good for the film she’s in. Stewart brings a level of intensity and layers to a character that is in desperate need of any kind of personality or depth. She does an admirable job, even if it does feel like a bit too much during the film’s climax. But, hey, at least she is really trying to go for it and at least her intensity makes the film entertaining to watch at times.

Peyman Moaadi also does a good job of bringing a layer of charisma to Ali, but Moaadi’s efforts go a bit more unnoticed due to Ali just being written as the nicest possible maybe-terrorist in the world. Moaadi still turns some solid work and he helps elevate the film along with Stewart to an admirable degree.

CAMP X-RAY doesn’t bring anything new to the table. The film feels like it’s a couple of years too late and everything feels way too safe. It’s worth applauding Sattler for even trying to deal with such a touchy subject matter while also touching on the sexism that exists in the military, but Sattler’s writing lacks the power to make anything feel like it’s more than cheap melodrama. CAMP X-RAY may have been made with the best intentions in mind and it may feature a couple of strong performances, but it’s not enough to make the film’s hokey screenplay work.

•• Final Reel, Kenji Lloyd: Rating 4/5
Tackling such a controversial and divisive subject as Guantanamo Bay was never going to be easy terrain to navigate, yet debut writer-director Peter Sattler handles it with impressive skill. A film like this was never going to be apolitical, as such, but rather than pick a side, Sattler chooses instead to focus on his two leading characters – one, a newly-assigned soldier who’s just arrived on the base; the other, a Muslim man who’s been a so-called ‘detainee’ at the prison for eight years, taken from his home in the middle of the day in the aftermath of 9/11.

Ultimately, Sattler’s debut is an incredibly powerful and human story, exploring this relationship that develops between these two unlikely characters in this unreal place. A film like this naturally lives and dies with its leading performances, and Kristen Stewart and Peyman Mooadi are both exceptional on opposite sides of the cell door.

In bringing Cole to life on the screen, Stewart gives a career-defining performance that speaks volumes of her range, proving yet again her talent and the extent of her breadth and depth with numerous characters. This could well be the year that the Academy recognises her work; Sony Classics has already promised a Best Supporting Actress campaign for Still Alice, and certainly IFC should be giving her a Best Actress push for such an Oscar-worthy performance in Camp X-Ray.

You can see from start to finish that she has utterly internalised this character. There is always so much going on in her eyes, often slightly downcast, with tiny facial twitches at just the right moments. It never feels anything less than authentic, and there are very few young actresses who could make such a complex character feel real.

Sattler’s framing of these two characters within their respective environments is excellent, often focusing on Stewart as she slowly walks the hundred-or-so paces outside the eight cells on suicide watch. It’s during these walks, effectively patrols in what her superior tells her is a warzone despite appearances, that Cole and Ali begin to bond, and Sattler chooses carefully and wisely the few scenes to shoot Stewart outside the door from within Ali’s cell.

There is a moment when Ali asks Cole why she’s here, why she joined the Army. And she tells him, with just a hint of pride and patriotism in her voice, that she wanted to do something important. And then we watch as the significance of what she’s just said slowly sinks in, and we see on her face as that realisation unfolds, of what that means to him and how that must make him feel.

For me, that moment alone makes this one of the most powerful films of the year. Mixing the mundane everyday life on the cell block with moments of surprising comedy and razor-sharp tension and drama, Sattler has crafted an incredibly affecting look at life within Guantanamo Bay for the detainees and the guards. In Cole’s own words, it isn’t as black and white as they told them it would be. It’s not just about saying one side is the good guys and one side is the bad guys; it’s an intensely personal drama, with outstanding performances from Kristen Stewart and Peyman Mooadi, and a highly impressive feature debut from Sattler.

•• Shelf Heroes: Rating 4/5
“This is a war zone,” bluntly states Colonel Drummond (John Carroll Lynch) as he introduces new recruits to their duties in Guantanamo Bay – a life of directionless routine that sees the soldiers every bit as trapped as the detainees, the latter pacing their cells as the guards pace the narrow corridor between them. To the rookie Cole (Kristen Stewart) the chance to escape her small town hasn’t provided the thrills and camaraderie she hoped for. Caught between boisterous, hostile fellow soldiers and cell after cell of antagonistic inmates, Cole is as isolated as the captives. But striking up a bond with one of the detainees, Ali (Payman Maadi), over the book cart – he has been waiting years for the final instalment of the Harry Potter series – Cole begins to shift her perceptions, and discovers some of that world experience she was hoping for. A relationship told through criss-crossed safety glass, Cole and Ali are both locked in the lonely existence of ‘Gitmo’, which begins to open her eyes to the morally dubious nature of the facility. “It’s not as black and white as they said it’d be,” Cole confesses to a colleague.

While Camp X-Ray lays its message on pretty thick – all the while working towards its inevitable conclusion – there is still a fiercely taut character piece at work that more than compensates for the growing implausibility of the plot. Debut writer/director Peter Sattler has cast the two leads superbly, discovering a chemistry between Stewart and Maadi that carries the film, drawing us deeper into their individual experiences with a natural, conversational tone. Stewart is outstanding, producing her finest performance to date in a masterclass of tight-lipped unease and nagging guilt. Her slight frame and delicate features may not instantly recall a soldier, but as she meticulously scrapes her hair back into a bun and pulls on the uniform the impressive transformation is complete. Her conflicted Cole is a foil to the more animated presence of Maadi whose verbose charisma is thoroughly captivating. As we see Cole morph from gung-ho rookie to guilt-ridden outsider, and Ali elevated by finally being treated as a human being, their unlikely friendship becomes as engrossing as any narrative-driven thriller, leaving us hanging on every word between the pair.

The mundanity of their cyclical experiences is drawn expertly, as an indeterminate number of days and nights pass – the detainees are watched, the food is labelled and the books are censored in an endless rotation of pointless exercises. It’s testament to the strength of Sattler’s writing and direction that within this limited existence he has been able to fashion something so engagingly human, wrought with moments of fierce tension. The film’s only real flaw is a narrative that is a little shallow if dwelled upon; but as the central relationship shines so brightly this is pushed to the periphery. Concerned with companionship in a hostile, alien world, Camp X-Ray merely scratches the surface of American foreign policy, but peers deep inside the hearts of those affected by it. Gripping human drama.

•• Rama's Screen: Rating 4/5
A brave and ambitious project by first time feature writer/director Peter Sattler who prior to this film, spent most of his career in the art/graphic aspect. CAMP X-RAY is compelling take on whether or not compassion can exist in a place that doesn’t make room for compassion. It’s a deeply moving performance-driven film depicting an unlikely relationship between a soldier and her detainee. Kristen Stewart had me intrigued the entire time. And Peyman Moaadi was simply outstanding.

CAMP X-RAY is one of those movies that dare you to ask what’s right and what’s wrong, those moral, grey area questions about humanity that others would rather avoid. And it doesn’t make the start of the friendship between Amy and Ali easy either. Most of the drama happens in a small room set of four walls with red doors on them and behind those doors are detainees, some of whom have lived there for years probably waiting for trials that may never come. Sometimes you’d also see Amy talking with Ali outside but within certain confines and the movie really wants us to know that there’s always a barrier between them.

I don’t think writer/director Peter Sattler’s intention was to get Guantanamo Bay accurately, CAMP X-RAY is not necessarily about getting the design to look just like the real thing, and many Americans may have different perceptions as to what may or may be going on in that place, some would be for or against the way the soldiers may be treating the detainees but that’s never what CAMP X-RAY was going for. It keeps our attention on these two lead characters only. It’s not a political movie.

Post-Twilight, and I’ve said before that Robert Pattinson has proven himself to be a versatile powerful young actor, he showed a different range in both Cosmopolis and The Rover. Many out there may not take Kristen Stewart as seriously, but when you’ve seen her work in Welcome To The Rileys, which captivated me, you’d know that this girl’s got what it takes to go the distance. And CAMP X-RAY is yet another evidence of that. As soldier Amy Cole, there’s that feeling alienation that comes with being a female soldier in a men’s world, and that feeling is probably what makes her able to empathize with Ali’s situation. And I was a huge fan of the Iranian Oscar-winning film, A Separation, so to see Peyman’s talent once again shines on screen and being used in an equally emotional film, is a fabulous thing.

CAMP X-RAY pushes you to wonder that if you show compassion, would it fireback or would you be rewarded and private first class Amy Cole finds out that answer for herself.

•• The Reel Deal: Rating 3/4
The Good: Stewart and Maadi’s on-screen chemistry is versatile and strong enough to distract attention away from the oversights. It doesn’t matter that we’re never told why Amir is suffering through daily debasement in Guantanamo Bay, because the genuinely gripping conversations and interactions shine lights on mutual understanding and the shared struggles in the human experience. All the more impressive is that Maadi’s performance is mostly delivered through a small window, subconsciously reminding you that although Amir is reaching out to Cole and commanding the conversation subtly, he is confined in a bare and claustrophobic hell in a cell. Cole’s constrictions populate the other half of the story with a struggle for an identity separate from her fellow soldiers, who are mostly people like Ransdell, her leery and suitably sexist superior officer who is played like a comic-book villain’s sneering grin by Lane Garrison.

The Bad: Leaving aside the imbalances in the portrayals of Pvt. Cole and Ali’s respective experiences, the marketing of the film has played a huge part in its disappointment. It does what it needs to in the world of two-handed unlikely friendships, but despite the empathy of the characters, the story can’t shake the stench of the sham from it. The other inmates are limited to shouting vague obscenities from their cages while Cole’s fellow guards are similarly flat in their blanket hatred of the prisoners (or “detainees”). The tactlessness deepens further whenever the film increases the tension.

The Reel Deal: Camp X-Ray shies away from proper representation of the horrific nature of a place like Guantanamo Bay and Peter Sattler is only interested in the relationship between an unlikely pairing with slightly comparable struggles. There’s even space for light comedy, weighed down by tinges of gallows humour in every guilty laugh.

•• Reshoot rewind: Rating 4/5
Thanks to a subdued marketing campaign and well-earned award contention, Camp X-Ray is one of 2014’s most alluring indie releases. Refusing to boast its lead actor’s stardom, the movie aims for film festival crowds and strictly adult audiences. In fact, I doubt Twilight fans would be willing to watch K-Stew be kicked, spat on, or covered in excrement by vicious detainees. Interestingly enough, the title only refers to one part of the compound. Whilst watching this stirring drama, many viewers’ jaws will drop uncontrollably. Throughout the 117-minute run-time, the “I can’t believe this actually happened!” thought became lodged in my skull like a rogue piece of shrapnel.

The narrative, crafting a slice-of-life account, drags us through each stage of Guantanamo’s gruelling processes. Graphic designer turned writer/director Peter Sattler, despite the fictional story, gathers enough research to make each frame feel genuine. Following Cole’s potent story, from her discomforting initiation to tender bond with Ali and more, Settler’s purposeful style illuminates our lead characters’ words and actions. In most sequences, Sattler’s less-is-more approach cranks the tension up to 11. Capturing the most mundane parts of Cole’s job, the movie never attempts to manipulate us. Oddly enough, despite the aforementioned faeces incident, Sattler’s succinct screenplay is more about telling than showing. The quieter moments, defined by searing dialogue and charming comedic jabs, cement this prison drama as a muted mix of The Shawshank Redemption and Zero Dark Thirty.

Despite lacking the aforementioned movies’ prowess, Camp X-Ray delivers many heartfelt moments, cracking lines, and thought-provoking viewpoints. Powered by Sattler’s tell-don’t-show approach, the supporting characters serve to summarise his agenda. In fact, these caricatures’ cruel words and disgraceful actions become overbearing. However, among the existential angst and political jabs, Camp X-Ray‘s central dynamic steadily turns this political-thriller into a fascinating and sweet pseudo-fairytale. As our lead character’s time runs out, varying conflicts and complications play out with maximum effect. Yearning for masculine qualities, our lead warps and twists herself around the system. Afraid of consequences and responsibilities, Cole’s arc delivers an emotionally resonant experience.

Beyond Sattler’s profound character development, credit belongs to Stewart for shedding her persona and becoming something else entirely. Ridding herself of the ongoing backlash, this ambitious project illuminates her immense magnetism and range. Utilising her slender figure and distinctive facial features, Stewart adapts to every situation and flourish. Stuck primarily in close up, she and Sattler’s intimate style bolster this meaningful journey. Aiding Stewart throughout, Moaadi – known primarily for breakout Iranian drama, A Separation – is blindingly charismatic as a sorrowful victim hidden deep within hell. Adding comedic hints when required, his bountiful performance elevates this sombre character study.

Despite switching between ever-so-slight Left and Right viewpoints, forcing Camp X-Ray to apologise on behalf of the US Government whilst applauding its stance on terrorism, the end result deserves our immediate attention. Telling a heart-breaking story about the West, Middle-East, and everywhere in between, this prison drama delivers a full-strength assault on the heart, mind, and senses. As a performance piece for one of Hollywood’s most underrated actresses, this is a sure-fire indie-drama highlight.

•• Splash, Jill Dale: Camp X-Ray is written and directed by Peter Sattler, making this his screenwriting debut. As a female Army veteran, I found certain elements of the script to be very well written and portrayed. The main character, Amy Cole (Stewart), endures the inequality, verbal/sexual harassment and ignorance from other male soldiers as well as the informal standards of which the military allows. Very realistic and beautifully portrayed by Stewart. Stewart’s depiction of this female soldier is brilliant and dead-on as she adapts a tough exterior and feels the pressure to prove herself as equal in a man’s Army. The film navigates the true emotion of her character as she develops a friendship with detainee Ali (Moaadi), whose new bond breaks through Amy’s tough walls as he attempts to persuade her to obtain the final Harry Potter book for him. Moaadi's performance is exceptional as well.

Unfortunately, the film is the slow paced; watching the guards circle the cell pod and looking into each cell over and over is about as entertaining as watching paint dry. One point of the film was very distracting. Cole is indoors and when an officer entered the room, she yelled “attention on deck.” Army soldiers do not use that command. Granted, the film is set at Guantanamo Bay and at this time was a joint operation. It is not likely this phrase would have been adapted by Army soldiers to adhere to Navy customs and courtesies or standard operating procedure.

Overall, while an interesting slant on a military film, Camp X-Ray is mediocre at best and may be a tough sell in several U.S. markets as Americans will likely not feel compassion for a jihad character, no matter how obsessed he is with Harry Potter.

•• Haut-Lifestyle, Janet Walker: "Camp X-Ray," from Rough House Productions and IFC Films, brings to the screen a realistic portrayal of post 9-11 life for both terror suspects detained at Guantanamo Bay and guards responsible for keeping them alive.

The lack of humanity and the rights of fringe terror groups or those responsible as was clearly stated in the film, those responsible for 9/11 died on 9/11. And practically that is true although the larger network has proven that that simplistic theoretical belief is not true.

What time did not prove is of course, that every detainee was in fact directly involved in Osama bin Laden's terror network and therefore even by proxy some were responsible for the attack on the United States.

The guards and detainees play mind games on each other, seeing which one will break first. Cole, a good soldier, is not the mental game giant, against Ali who has had eight years of pressure and who knows the training before.

The mental attachment, based in humanity and seeing a person, even after Ali blatantly reverts to animalistic conditioned behavior, she persists and is accused of being female, translation, led by emotion, instead of a soldier and simply following orders blind to right or wrong.

With that said, "Camp X-Ray" is fictionalized and is of course a film. It is well made not with flashy set design or other movie making techniques that create illusion but with boots on the ground realism.

Stewart raises the bar once again with her performance as a guard at Gitmo who becomes mentally attached to a detainee. She proves conclusively she is more than a franchise staple and that she can handle substance of beefy roles. She goes from stilettos to Doc Martens effortlessly.

As it is an ensemble cast and all give genuine, true to character, honest performances as both military personnel, grappling with the grey area of expectation and the detainees equally arresting in their performances as possible 9-11 terrorists. John Carroll Lynch shows up as Colonel Drummond, an understated and understanding lifer.

For an inside look at Gitmo and not simply Stewart's performance, "Camp X-Ray" is a must see.

•• Paste Magazine, Jeremy Matthews: Payman Moaadi’s performance in Camp X-Ray shines with enough humanity to illuminate the whole movie. Where writer/director Peter Sattler’s political drama may feel too mechanical, arriving at its issues too precisely, Moaadi’s portrayal of mentally scarred Guantanamo Bay detainee Ali Amir writhes with so much pain, anger, and yearning that it elevates everything around it. This includes his interactions with Kristen Stewart, which are, unexpectedly, truly special for their intensity, giving the film’s events a real degree of urgency.

Sattler’s drama is embroiled in two hot political topics, which in many ways it wants so badly to conflate: the United States’ indefinite holding of prisoners—often for unclear reasons—and the treatment of women in the male-centric U.S. military. Our protagonist and a new guard at Guantanamo, Private Cole (Stewart), learns the hard truths of both situations as soon as she arrives at the detention center; to his credit, Sattler wants to create a strong drama first, and allow politics to naturally emerge from his characters’ predicaments.

The first thing Cole learns is that Guantanamo must be called a “detention center” with detainees, not a “prison” with prisoners—otherwise Guantanamo would violate the Geneva Convention. Rules like this set the stage for the odd bureaucracy that runs through the place, where administration’s concerns aren’t over how people are treated, but how everything complies with regulation. (Complaints won’t reach any ears actually interested in hearing them.) Visually, the locale’s sterile, brightly lit, not that dungeon of squalor befitting a horrific prison. More like a high school. The terror lies in its banality.

The straight-faced Cole attempts to earn respect upon her arrival, but can’t win with a macho superior (Lane Garrison), and soon finds more members of the men’s club up the chain of command. But the key to Cole’s transformation comes when she guards the detainees. Guantanamo looks the same whether she’s working the night shift or the day shift—the lights stay on 24 hours a day—but one prisoner stands out, which he does by demanding the last Harry Potter book (they had all the previous installments but never got the 7th, leaving him wondering what happens and whether Snape is good or bad). Cole soon finds that his qualms aren’t always so cute, however, when he lashes out, assaulting her with the only weapon he has: his own feces.

This prisoner is Amir, and even after suffering his abuse, Cole can’t help but sympathize with her detainee. Both characters are incapable of enacting change in their current situation, so the best they can hope for is friendship. In the midst of that dynamic, Camp X-Ray is at its best. Moaadi, who was also great in the 2011 Oscar winner A Separation, pulls off comedy quite well, as his character has embraced the absurdity of his situation with mad abandon, but deep down he’s struggling with psychological issues developed during incarceration. His everyday conditions, of course, do not allow him to continually perpetuate his zany persona, which adds a volatility to his scenes that leave us wondering just whom the real man is—if he still exists at all.

Stewart plays off Moaadi with a reserved curiosity, her cold exterior occasionally showing signs of fascination and amusement. Stewart’s performances have often met with the criticism that she doesn’t project enough outward emotion, but in this case that’s an advantage. For a member of the armed services—and a female who faces the challenge of being accepted, especially within an organization which champions the importance of protecting one’s own—her reserved expressions are necessity. Yet, given her low rank, Cole doesn’t have much information about this prisoner or why he’s in Guantanamo. All that’s certain is her friendship is forbidden—and her commander makes that clear in rather sadistic ways. In one disturbing scene, he aims to disrupt the guard’s and prisoner’s mutual respect by forcing Cole to humiliate the man, demanding she see him more intimately than his Muslim beliefs allow.

When the story ventures away from Cole and Amir, it loses much of its punch. Unfortunately, outside of the leads’ powerful interactions, the rest of the drama feels rather rote (especially given its “big” political issues), and Sattler’s script lags behind heavy-handed metaphors and over-explanation, which thankfully Moaadi tries his best to save. This is Sattler’s first feature as a writer and director, after all, but, next to his ability to elicit such performances from his cast, his strongest asset is his awareness of place. Regardless of how accurately Camp X-Ray replicates the real Guantanamo, its claustrophobic cleanliness is both surprising and off-putting, and Sattler’s depiction of the environment, while unremarkable, is remarkably clear.

Inevitably, the two characters come to understand and value each other. Camp X-Ray, in turn, is more about friendship than any other newspaper headline, and while it may not be a likely story or even a truly believable story as far as Guantanamo Bay and the military go, Moaadi, with a little help from Kristen Stewart, makes sure it’s a memorable one.

•• TXT Movie Club, Shari K. Green: Camp X-Ray is a fantastic vehicle for Kristen Stewart to show us what she's got! It could have chosen for itself a better title for it conjures thoughts of horror films, quite honestly, but after watching... the title of the movie fits and makes absolute sense. So, I’ll let it go, as misleading as it was at first.

Detainee. What do you think of when you hear this word? What it means is “a person held in custody, especially for a political offense or for questioning.” But it does lead us, and is used well in the film for this reason, to Guantanamo Bay and we then recall why it is filled with people not referred to as prisoners for a reason. It brings about hatred for a certain type of person that attacked the U.S., a detainee is to have no more thought beyond the belief and reason that each life within the walls of “Gitmo” sits there for. Over a decade later comes a film that puts you in the shoes of a political prisoner… detainee. I was not even prepared for the film I put on to watch.

Kristen Stewart plays Amy Cole, a female in the Army who is stationed at Guantanamo Bay and introduced to a world of sexism by both the squad and the detainees. She gets the brunt of disdain from both sides but then develops an unlikely friendship with someone she wasn’t expecting to; someone who would rather have thrown feces on her than hold a conversation with her when she first got her duty. Is he an animal or is that how he's being trained to be?

This movie is so well made; you are directed to see her point of view; a soldier’s point of view. Then Sattler turns the tables on you and by the end of it, you are seeing the world from four walls and what that perspective would be... her four walls as well as a detainees'.

Stewart is quite beautiful in the character of Amy Cole and I was pleasantly surprised she took this less than romantic role where her pouts are usually used best. She literally has feces thrown on her and she is spit on! You hate the men who do this to her and are as closed-minded as Cole is, but then she opens up to learning where the violence toward her might be coming from... and so do you.

Peyman Moaadi plays Ali who doesn’t make things easy for her but gets through to her and wakes her from her small town thinking. What Ali wants is to be acknowledged as a person... and a new book. The last book in a series he has been waiting for years to read so he may finally know the ending. You'll love this part. Anyway, when she finally takes a moment to listen to him, you are happy for her and you see hope that she’ll carry on her mission to fight for a better world. Cole or "Blondie" as Ali refers to her, joined the Army to be a part of something. Let’s hope there are a lot of real Coles’ in the world who wish to do the same as she does in this film; listen, learn and grow.

I recommend Camp X-Ray for anyone who wants to see a moving film that you learn from. It is a deeply contemplative and absorbing movie. It will really have you thinking of people. Just people. And you’ll not forget Stewart in this role. It’s nice to see her break from the YA personae’s for a change.

•• Victoria Advocate, Joe Friar: Rating 3/4
Critics of Kristen Stewart should be silenced as she puts in her best performance since she was Jodie Foster's 12 year old daughter in Panic Room in 2002. It will help gain momentum for Stewart who's next release, Clouds Of Sils Maria, should gain her even more critical acclaim.

The film is elevated by the performances of Stewart and Maadi who are much better than the occasional source material slip-up, it's hard swallowing that Amy is not familiar with Harry Potter, but writer-director Sattler does a commendable job of keeping the narrative in a middle gray area by avoiding the confirmation of Ali's guilt and simultaneously keeping the film from taking an anti-American stance as a movie of prisoner mistreatment. Sattler's realistic treatment of the situation and the solid performances by the film's cast make "Camp X-Ray" worth watching.

•• Chicago Sun-Times, Bruce Ingram: Rating 2,5/4
The gray, drab monotony of the setting seeps into the marrow of the prison drama “Camp X-Ray,” though it’s invigorated, somewhat, by strong central performances from actors on opposite sides of a locked steel door.

At first, the relationship between Ali and Cole is mutually hostile, triple-underscored early on when Ali throws a cup full of his own feces at her. But debut writer-director Peter Sattler manages an unlikely transition when Cole begins to sympathize with Ali during his punishment for that assault — and to respect the eight years of fierce resistance that’s documented in his file.

We have to assume that’s what she’s thinking, because Cole isn’t given much to say, but Stewart makes her motives clear despite the soldier’s mask of stone-faced discipline. Here, the actress’ tight-lipped, emotionally guarded screen persona suits her character well. And her reserve is nicely complemented by abundant emotion from Moaadi, ranging from seething anger to bitter humor to despair, all restrained by the fact that he typically is seen only through a narrow, vertical window in his cell door. Sattler is a bit too blatant about drawing parallels between Ali and Cole, attempting to drive home the point that Guantanamo is as dehumanizing for her as it is for him. But an accumulation of small moments between Stewart and Moaadi make their slowly developing, forbidden friendship believable.

Unfortunately, Sattler opts for a Very Big Moment that’s not nearly as believable for the ultra-dramatic climax. It would have seemed odd if he hadn’t, mind you, since everything that happens in the film points clearly in that direction, but it’s still hard to take seriously. Except for the performances that are better than it deserves.

•• Redeye Chicago, Matt Pais: Rating 3/4
Making a movie about the imperfect circumstances—to put it mildly—at Guantanamo Bay is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. Even those with minimal information about the controversial prison probably don’t presume every detainee deserved to be there or that every soldier supported everything that happened within its walls.

Still, “Camp X-Ray” effectively dramatizes a situation with the possibility to cause frustration for those both inside and outside the cells. At first, Private Cole (Kristen Stewart, really good here and in the upcoming “Clouds of Sils Maria”) follows Corporal Ransdell’s (Lane Garrison) directive: Give detainees, who are not to be referred to as prisoners so they’re not subject to the Geneva Convention, no opportunity to get to know the soldiers who are there only to keep them alive. “They will test you, and they will best you,” says Ransdell, who’s usually not that poetic. But treating everyone coldly doesn’t suit Cole, particularly as she develops a rapport with Harry Potter aficionado Ali (equally good Peyman Moaadi). He calls her “Blondie” despite her brown hair. He introduces her to the concept of a “[bleep] cocktail” (gross). He also demonstrates that he’s only a danger to others if he’s treated, and in effect made to act, like an animal.

First-time feature writer/director Peter Sattler allows one detainee to overshadow the others, skewing the complexity of post-9/11 fear and racial profiling. But “Camp X-Ray” makes a compelling dramatic companion to documentaries “Standard Operating Procedure” (about Abu Ghraib, but still) and “The Invisible War” (about sexual assault in the military). Stewart’s Cole is strong enough to fend for herself but nervous and unsure how to handle progressively conflicting impulses. At a party with her mostly male colleagues, the sexual expectation is undeniable. Later, Cole’s pressured into breaking protocol by choosing between being a soldier and “a female soldier.” Sattler doesn’t overplay this tension; like the lack of understanding that makes both soldiers and detainees question what’s being accomplished, the filmmaker acknowledges conflict without turning it into melodrama.

The real world can’t be reduced to heroes and villains, an inconvenience when it comes to national security, military operations and everyday life. No one in “Camp X-Ray” is a saint. The film isn’t always convincing and won’t be considered an expose, but that doesn’t appear to be the intent. The goal is a humanitarian curiosity about what it could be like for these particular people to be stuck there, only some of whom have any hope of leaving.

•• The Detroit News, Tom Long: Rating B
It’s hard to make a political movie that doesn’t dissolve into ranting, ranting being our modern time’s default mode of political expression.

Which is why the low-key “Camp X-Ray” is so appreciated. Don’t misunderstand — it gets dramatic. Its subject matter, after all, is the grim and wholly unjust prison at Guantanamo Bay. But it doesn’t scream, it doesn’t make generalizations and it paints with a thin brush instead of a broad one, thriving on details.

Kristen Stewart stars as Cole, an MP private assigned to guard detainees there (they can’t be called prisoners, which they are, because it would afford them a right to a trial). It’s not a matter of keeping the men from escaping — there’s nowhere to run to. It’s to make sure they don’t hurt themselves or upset other detainees.

Most of these men have been in their tiny cells for years. They’ve gone through hunger strikes, been sent to solitary confinement, endured a complete lack of privacy and many have gone half-mad. The MPs don’t know why they are there and, for the most part, they don’t care.

Cole meets the talkative Ali (Payman Maadi from “A Separation”) early on. He thinks there’s a conspiracy afoot at the prison to keep the final Harry Potter book from being offered to the detainees. While most of those in their cells either keep quiet or fly into the occasional rage, Ali seems to genuinely want someone to talk to.

After initially resisting Ali’s attempts to communicate, Cole finally gives in. And the film follows the two as they develop respect for one another. This can only, obviously, go so far. And at some point Cole will be transferred, while Ali isn’t going anywhere.

Stewart, who could be out earning big paychecks with mindless blockbusters, continues to challenge herself and continues to live up to the challenges. Her Cole has just enough swagger to be believable and more empathy than is probably healthy for the job. Stewart plays it close — this woman’s in the military, after all — but brings subtle depth to the role.

This is writer-director Peter Sattler’s first feature and he offers a fine take on the human side of rigid control and baffling political policy. “Camp X-Ray” has little to offer in the way of hope, but much to say about understanding.

•• Red Carpet Crash, Tyler Yates: Soldier Amy Cole (Kristen Stewart) has just been assigned to guard duty at the controversial, notorious, and politically charged Guantanamo Bay prison. Despite the very prevalent reminder that her new duty should viewed with an ‘us versus them’ war attitude, Amy finds herself developing a friendship with one of the detainees, a prisoner of eight years, Ali Amir (Peyman Mooadi).

‘Camp X-Ray’ is a movie built around a great concept that sorely lacks depth and elaboration in a few key areas while overcompensating in others. It is not enough to just put out an idea for a story and expect a few great actors to flesh everything out and cover up any weaknesses. While the script does a good job not merely creating stereotypical caricatures of the military or supposed terrorists it largely goes out of its way to ignore certain aspects of the Guantanamo prison dynamic, which would have given the film a more well-rounded feel. This film is clearly meant to be a study of the human condition and a unique way of examining certain moral quandaries, but in doing so it loses focus on the context and reality in which the story takes place.

The poignancy of the film’s idea should not be understated and the respective performances from Stewart and Mooadi are both topnotch. The onscreen chemistry between the two adds to the realism of the overall story and allows the plot to develop with a more organic (rather than formulaic) feel. The very fact that this chemistry is so strong given that the way their interactions take place in the movie speaks volumes about both the actors and the filmmakers.

Character development and interpersonal relations are given the spotlight in the film, and the rest is just left as details or set-up. The overall atmosphere and filming techniques (most of the film involves the characters being separated by a metal door with a tiny glass window) give the movie a unique and captivating feel that allows the character driven approach to shine.

‘Camp X-Ray’ provides a fascinating examination of the relationship between prisoner and guard with a keen eye to the human condition. Its lack of impetus on certain key issues tied up with Guantanamo Bay relegate the location to nothing more than a plot set-up point rather than a possible further source for rich philosophic examination in line with the film’s general theme. Regardless, this is a movie worth checking out.

+ Review by the BFI London Film Festival Deputy head Tricia Tuttle


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 introducing the movie 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! :)

- 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.

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