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.
In limited theaters and on digital platforms now.