By Jill Borowski
“Camp X-Ray” is a controversial film about a young woman, Amy Cole (Kristen Stewart), and her quest to leave her small town lifestyle for something bigger. She joins the military in search of a greater purpose in life, but she then ends up as a military guard at the Camp X-Ray temporary detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. Cole finds herself surrounded by violent and harsh soldiers, as well supposed terrorists awaiting their fates. All of these prisoners have been at the prison for at least eight years.
The film opens on a scene of the Twin Towers burning from the tragic 9/11 terrorists attacks that permanently scarred the memories of the American people. The opening was strategic to the context of the film, as “Camp X-Ray” plays on both sides of the political spectrum—the U.S. government and the alleged “terrorists.” It is interesting that Cole’s first line in the film is in response to her superior officer, stating that the prisoners were not prisoners, but in fact “detainees” since they were not subject to the Geneva Convention, or the rights that it provides.
Cole undergoes a spiritual transformation when she meets one of the inmates named Ali (Payman Maadi). He is a detainee from Germany who, according to him, is not like the other guys—he is a good guy. Cole develops a strong bond with this prisoner, all the while gaining an insider’s perspective on the whole ethical situation of Guantanamo Bay.
Stewart does a fairly good job of portraying her character in “Camp X-Ray.” A deliberate attempt is made for her to be as androgynous as possible—she looks like the epitome of a tomboy. Her hair is worn in a bun, and she is seldom shown as feminine, except during a few scenes. In general, Stewart normally plays stoic roles, so she was cast perfectly here. Maadi was a great choice for the character Ali because of certain innate, likable qualities about him—even though he was a detainee and may have committed wrongdoings, viewers find themselves rooting for the good guy in Ali.
“Camp X-Ray” does a fabulous job in recreating Guantanamo Bay—it is really believable as a functioning prison, down to the outdoor showers and prison cells. A viewer can get lost in the movie, sometimes forgetting that is in fact a film. “Camp X-Ray” did stand out for me—I think that it had just a bit of everything: believability, occasional humor, and a decent back-story in Cole’s case. The film is successful in providing the viewer a real experience of what it would be like being a guard at Guantanamo Bay; I would definitely recommend this film to anyone who has an interest in military-centered movies.
“Camp X-Ray” has some surprise twists and turns that you would not expect. The movie comes out in theaters and on video-on-demand on Oct. 17. Rating: A.