Camp X-Ray

Posted November 14, 2014 by in


Total Score

4/ 5

Quick Stats

Genre: prison drama
Director: Peter Sattler
MPAA Rating: R
Actors: Kristen Stewart, Peyman Moaadi, Lane Garrison
Length: 117 minutes
Release Date: 11/14/2014
Studio: GNK Productions, Gotham Group, Rough House Pictures, Upload Films (production services), Young Gang
What We Thought

The main characters are as well-written as they are well-played by Stewart and Moaadi, and the film is worth watching for their performances.

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article
This weekend, theaters see the release of two strikingly similar films, both by first-time feature directors.
     Much like RosewaterCamp X-Ray takes place in a prison.  Also like Jon Stewart’s film, Camp X-Ray is about someone who’s been wrongly accused, and is held indefinitely without the benefit of a trial and due process.  However, he is not called a prisoner, but a “detainee” so that the Geneva protocols will not apply.  And he is not called by his name, but by his number, #471 (Peyman Moaadi).
     He doesn’t know his guard’s name, Private First Class Cole (Kristen Stewart).  Her job, as her C.O. (Lane Garrison) explains, isn’t to keep him prisoner; the walls do that.  It’s to keep him from killing himself.  For eight months, she checks on him every three minute for twelve hours a day, every day.
     Taking place in GTMO, the film is about their relationship, how they each have a role to play as prisoner and prison guard.  Stewart plays her role as jailer with aplomb.  Her character always gives the expected answer, that the detainees have it good (they eat better than the soldiers do), but Stewart is able to convey the subtext, that she’s falling apart inside at the sight of human beings being treated inhumanely.
     Camp X-Ray is about how treating human beings like animals turns them into animals.  They are denied privacy and dignity, are caged like animals and chained like animals,  and finally beaten like animals when they can take no more, and are forced to that way every day, as animals, without a chance of escape—even through death.
     Cole gradually becomes aware of this.  She’s a good soldier, but also a good human being, and there comes a moment where she can’t be both at once.  In a compelling, gripping climax, she must choose between doing the ethical thing, and doing the moral thing.
     I can’t find too much fault in a film that is so well-intentioned, that has its heart in the right place.  However, supporting roles are thinly drawn, such as her C.O., and her friend (Joseph Julian Soria), who is strangely oblivious to her obvious distress.
     However, the main characters are as well-written as they are well-played by Stewart and Moaadi.  Camp X-Ray is a promising debut for Peter Sattler, who also wrote the screenplay.  In his use of close-ups and staging, and for elements of the story itself, Sattler is clearly inspired by Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs, which he references explicitly.  His strength, however, is an actor’s director, and the film is worth watching for his performers, as well as its message.

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.


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