Camp X-Ray Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Kristen Stewart, Peyman Moaadi, Lane Garrison
  • Director: Peter Sattler
  • Format: Blu-ray, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • Release Date: June 2, 2015
  • Run Time: 117 minutes


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            How successful Camp X-Ray is as a film is entirely dependent upon how willing each audience member is to sit through nearly two hours of understated dialogue between two characters separated by walls, glass, and fences, despite knowing where the storyline is inevitably headed. The fact that the material is not more cloying is a testament to writer/director Peter Sattler, though it is thanks to the two leads that the realism in the screenplay feels sincere. The entire film is a balancing act between realism and a contrived relationship, meant to offer introspection over complicated issues of duty and standard operating procedures within the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention camp. While the film falls flat in a somewhat over-inflated running-time, Camp X-Ray earns most of its emotional payoff with a well-researched script and dedicated performances from its actors.

     


            The movie follows Private Amy Cole (Kristen Stewart) as she arrives at her new position as a guard at Guantanamo Bay, allowing the audience to be introduced to the procedures along with the protagonist. Her first post is library duty, offering books to the Muslim men being detained, including the Harry Potter-obsessed Ali (Payman Maadi). Having been a detainee for 8 years, Ali often acts like the caged animal that he is being treated like, but Private Cole soon begins to see the complexities of his personality as a metaphor for the entire detention facility. Having joined to army to fight overseas, Cole discovers the battles of Gitmo to be far less black-and-white.

     

            One of the film’s more interesting choices was making Cole a woman, though Sattler’s original screenplay had written the character male. Though it occasionally detracts from the political message of the film, this alteration allows for a sub-theme about the trials of women in the military. It also provides Stewart the opportunity to escape her image as the actress from the Twilight franchise, despite having already proven herself as a solid actress prior to joining that infamous teen fantasy franchise. Unfortunately, it also places a gender divide in the storyline, giving most male soldiers adverse caveman demeanors in comparison to Cole’s sympathies.

     

            This is clear in several different depictions of Cole’s male counterparts, though none as contrived and distracting as a commanding officer (Lane Garrison) who punishes her for refusing a sexual relationship. I also couldn’t help but wonder why Cole repeatedly attempts to discuss the incongruities of the facility with a fellow soldier named Rico (Joseph Julian Soria), despite the fact that he is the least likely candidate for thoughtful introspection. Even more obnoxious is the generic over-sexualized characterization of the only other female soldier we see. Despite being given a character name, blonde actress Tara Holt is merely used as a prop for the sexist soldiers in their time off. We hardly ever see her on duty and the screenplay doesn’t even bother giving her any significant dialogue.

     

            If the film is often derailed by the sub-plots and supporting characters, Camp X-Ray finds its way back on track with the scenes of dialogue between Cole and Ali. Despite being filmed in only 20 days, Stewart and Maadi were given 10 days of rehearsal prior to filming. The strength in the film comes from our ability to believe these two characters, especially when they spend the entire film headed in an inevitable direction.

     

    The Blu-ray release includes a making-of featurette, as well as a trailer.

     

    Entertainment Value: 6.5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10

    Historical Significance:  6/10

    Special Features: 4/10




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