14 October 2014 | ClaytonDavis
Kristen Stewart and Peyman Moaadi shine in Peter Sattler's debut...
The directorial debut of Peter Sattler is infused with a strong moral ambiguity that will make you question your own beliefs. Anchored by two magnificent performances by Kristen Stewart and Peyman Moaadi, "Camp X-Ray" is a flawed yet very affecting portrait of a relationship that develops in the most unlikeliest of places.
"Camp X-Ray" tells the story of a soldier named by Amy Cole, who is assigned to watch detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Her whole outlook on the military and life are changed when she befriends one of the detainees named Ali Amir.
From an honest filmmaking standpoint, writer/director Sattler hits many of his cinematic cues that you'd expect in a movie like this. It's full of emotion, tension, and moral questions that keep you thinking. However, the questions and emotional high-points are few and far between. At times, the film can feel awfully bloated, with fluff, and seemingly unimportant subplots that do nothing for the overall theme. There was a unique opportunity to explore queries regarding war, prison, and other things regarding politics that can be very frustrating when watching, especially since it has 117 minute run time. With all that said, when Sattler does it right, he nails it. I would be remiss if I didn't say, I'm not looking forward to see what he has up his sleeve next.
The cinematic world tends to forget that Kristen Stewart showed such immense promise pre-"Twilight" days. A complete standout in Sean Penn's "Into the Wild" in 2007, for which she was nominated alongside the cast at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Even in between the vampire franchise, she subtly delivered in "Adventureland," "The Runaways," and "On the Road." Stewart revives her glory days as Private Amy Cole, and makes us believe in a brighter future for the tween icon. Sattler knows her limitations, strengths, and puts them both to stunning use. Emotionally charged, Stewart may have delivered her finest performance yet, even one of the best by an actress this year.
As Asghar Farhadi enthusiasts will remember the talented Peyman Moaadi from the Oscar-winning "A Separation," the rest of the world that hasn't had the pleasure yet will start becoming well acquainted. Moaadi ignites a fire throughout the film, balancing his inquisitive and charismatic demeanor against a deep-rooted anger that will explode at any moment. I implore all writer and directors to utilize him over the next few years/decades.
Overall, "Camp X-Ray" has many things to offer an audience member. Some of which will make you curious, some of which that will undoubtedly disappoint you. Consequently, the film will get a dialogue going between those who have seen the film. I'm excited to see how Sattler's experience will be interpreted by the viewing public. At bare minimum, you can relish in the bravura turns of Kristen Stewart and Peyman Moaadi, two actors that are well worth the watch.