Sundance Film Review: Camp X-Ray

Posted January 19, 2014 in
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Photo courtesy of: Beth Dubber

Camp X-Ray
Sundance Film Festival
Director: Peter Sattler

Kristen Stewart plays Amy Cole, a small-town girl who joins the Army to do something important with her life and is assigned to Guantanamo Bay. Despite orders not to treat the prisoners, er, detainees as humans, Cole forms a kind of friendship with Ali (Payman Maadi), one of the imprisoned Jihadists. At first, Cole/Stewart’s tough-girl façade seems forced and unbelievable, but she pulls it off and gives a surprisingly good performance as she participates in dehumanizing disciplinary acts, is struck with a “shit cocktail” and is victim to misogyny on both sides of Guantanamo’s internal war. Maadi, though, might be the best part of the film—he hilariously pesters Cole to procure a Harry Potter book for him and forces her to question the very basis of what she, and her country, stands for. The film feels a bit drawn out toward the middle, but James Laxton’s beautiful photography keeps your attention. Sattler’s focus on human interactions and attitudes rather than politics is sure to please crowds while simultaneously questioning the “War on Terror.” It does seem pretty cheesy when a montage tries to draw parallels between soldiers saluting a flag and Musilm prisoners bowing toward Mecca, though. Camp X-Ray is worth seeing, if not for its criticism of US military practices, then for the only film performance by Stewart that I think doesn’t suck—although she still bites her bottom lip about a hundred times. –Cody Kirkland

Screening Times: 
Monday, Jan. 20 — 6:30 p.m. • Peery’s Egyptian Theater, Ogden
Wednesday, Jan. 22 — 2:30 p.m. • The MARC, Park City
Friday, Jan. 24 — 8:30 p.m. • Library Center Theatre, Park City

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