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USA 2014
Directed by
Peter Sattler
111 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Camp X-Ray

A young woman, Amy Cole (Kristen Stewart), joins the army to be part of something bigger than her small town roots foreshadow. But as a new guard at Guantanamo Bay she strikes up a friendship with one of the detainees and begins to question her commitment to military life.

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

Cole is a rookie soldier thrown into the deep-end of male-dominated military life on the one hand and the alien world of Muslim fundamentalism on the other.  Whereas her fellow soldiers have little capacity for or inclination to question their role, the observant, self-contained Cole immediately registers the skewed universe in which she finds herselfs This of course makes her vulnerable, something which she fights against, throwing herself into the blokey antics of her peers but ultimately the pull to understand the point of view of her charges leads her to befriend one of the “detainees”,  Ali Amir (Payman Maadi).

Debut feature writer-director Sattler makes excellent use of his resources (the film was actually shot in an abandoned juvenile prison just outside Los Angeles) and the relatively confined parameters of his narrative with his two main protagonists separated by the walls of a prison cell.

Stewart is superb as the doughty young soldier who is experiencing a kind of identity crisis, torn between the military code to which she has subscribed and her natural humanitarian sensibilities. She is ably supported by Payman Maadi who many will recognize as the beleaguered husband in A Separation.

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

DVD Extras: A Making-of Featurette

Available from: Madman




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