Kristen Stewart is something of an anomaly. She’s a beautiful young actress who started out in supernatural romantic drivel but is thankfully maturing as a talented thespian. She could have easily remained in Twilight-like fare but she has basically graduated to more grownup features. Her newest film Camp X-Ray is a powerful dramatic effort that places Stewart in a setting you’d never picture her in, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The film is a brave effort from Stewart and certainly one of the best films of the year. Here’s hoping it doesn’t fall through the cracks.
Camp X-Ray refers to a temporary detention facility within Guantanamo Bay and the film is an honest look at the relationship between prison guards and detainees. Stewart plays Army private first class Amy Cole, a rookie soldier placed in a bleak prison setting. She basically spends her days babysitting terrorists behind bars and this lifestyle can either be very boring or just slightly boring. Things get interesting however when she delivers books to the detainees strikes up a conversation with one of the imprisoned individuals about Harry Potter. This unlikely “relationship” eventually blossoms into a platonic understanding that the other guards seriously frown upon.
The detainee Cole talks to is Ali Amir and he is played brilliantly by Peyman Moaadi (A Separation, About Elly). The entire film shows the growing appreciation Cole and him share. This type of relationship has been done before, most notably in The Silence of the Lambs and it is always a fascinating thing. Good versus evil is put under the microscope and when you look closely, you will see that the characters aren’t very different at all. Amir may be in prison but he is not an evil person. Sure, he’s done bad things and he is being punished for them but he has a heart and a soul. Cole knows this and sees the human being underneath.
Camp X-Ray is a film that features two very strong performances from two very capable actors. Thankfully, Stewart has shattered the stereotype of “Twilight-damsel in distress”. She is no longer just a vampire’s girlfriend. With Camp X-Ray, she has proven to audiences that she can seriously act. Sure, she still has the occasional flat affect but in this film, she shows that she can pick roles that are outside her wheelhouse. Her onscreen relationship with Moaadi helps bring out her character’s psychology and the scenes they share are definitely the stuff of acting genius.
With powerful performances from the two leads and a subject rarely tackled in film these days, Camp X-Ray is a great picture that should be viewed by all. Prisoners are people too and Cole’s treatment of Amir is that of respect and almost friendship. Camp X-Ray is a bittersweet affair that will certainly resonate with audiences. Stewart’s performance is unique and a refreshing change of pace. The same can be said about Moaadi, who is a strong actor in hi own right. One of the best films of 2014, with a subject that needs to be explored more often, Camp X-Ray is an exquisite tour de force.