Kristen Stewart Excels In Powerful Drama “Camp X-Ray”

In our second review of Peter Sattler’s hard-hitting Guantanamo Bay-set drama Camp X-Ray starring Kirsten Stewart, Martin Carr explains why the film deserves to be seen by a wider audience.

“Camp X-Ray” Captivates While Asking Questions Without AnswersGuantanamo Bay is synonymous with people being held against their will, in a place where their human rights are neatly sidestepped for the sake of a greater good. Our chest beating allies across the pond have gone to great lengths, under the joint auspices of truth and justice to guarantee the continued existence of this terrorist pig pen. Stuck in a jurisdictional black hole just beyond the boundaries of our so called civilised world, it remains a dangerous topic to tackle. That Camp X Ray manages to explore certain issues without feeling like a sabre rattling exercise, is the first of many things director Peter Sattler manages to get right.

Pulling few punches he focuses his attention on one central relationship, meaning that outside of these perimeters the film loses momentum. Kristen Stewart and Payman Maadi play the unlikely pairing at its centre, upon which our dramatic investment hinges. Sattler uses the austere imagery of floodlit wire cages and soul destroying routine as a counterpoint to this burgeoning friendship. In which Stewart hands us a solid performance, making sure we forget her Twilight back catalogue and Huntsman misdemeanour.

In pivotal dialogue scenes she more than holds her own against Camp X-Ray’s most riveting discovery who is locked in a cell for most of the running time and dominates often through silence. An intellectual firebrand that battles the futility of his situation, whether expounding the virtues of Sudoku or dissecting Severus Snape’s deeper intentions. It is Ali who uses his natural magnetism to voice opinion and address issues, which few others are developed enough to attempt.

“Camp X-Ray” Captivates While Asking Questions Without Answers

Beyond the verbal exchanges Camp X-Ray falls back on stereotype a touch and certain scenes feel convoluted and signposted. But these minor flaws are forgiven in light of the bravery elsewhere where Sattler chooses to avoid undue scenes of torture which would have detracted from the overall message. Instead he settles on implication rather than graphic depiction to hammer home the point which strips away impact to an extent whilst also robbing us of the guilt and remorse, which are inherent by products and minimise narrative closure.

Now I take nothing away from Stewart and Maadi who are outstanding in their scenes together, but lack of development outside of this ultimately undermines everything else. For me Camp X Ray is an important film worth watching similar in tone to Schindler’s List or 12 Years A Slave. But what separates McQueen and Spielberg from Sattler is well rounded peripheral characterisation. At the conclusion of Camp X-Ray you should be appalled not comfortably numb. And it should be the issues which cause debate, not the performances that brought them to your attention irrespective of calibre.

Camp X-Ray - Four Stars

Written by Martin Carr

“Camp X-Ray” Captivates While Asking Questions Without AnswersDirected by: Peter Sattler
Written by: Peter Sattler
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Peyman Moaadi, John Carroll Lynch, Lane Garrison, Joseph Julian Soria, Cory Michael Smith
Released: 2014 / Genre: Drama
Country: USA / IMDB
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    CineGirl Reply

    Nice to see another fan of Camp X-Ray. I thought it was powerful stuff; thought provoking, moving, unsettling. I was pleased to see more of Kristen Stewart doing what she does best. She has a talent that most don’t give her credit for. Definitely a film that people will take different things away from.

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      Martin Carr Reply

      Thanks for reading CineGirl. Glad you enjoyed the piece…Martin

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    Edip Yuksel Reply

    I watched the movie tonight and I was expecting another military propaganda, but I was surprised to see the love prevail hate… I commend you for this review. The military industrial complex and those who promote its interests are turning us enemies against each other. It is no wonder that the terrorist organizations are produced by countries destroyed and invaded by the terrorist government who are serving multinational corporations and bloody weapon industry. I invite you to read some of my articles analising the war and terror industry at

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