Kristen Stewart stars as Amy Cole, an idealistic young private in the United States army who questions her beliefs after forging an unlikely friendship with one of the prisoners – sorry, detainees – at the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention centre.
Peyman Moaadi plays Ali Amir, the talkative, university-educated terrorist suspect, who may or may not be guilty. They first meet when Stewart is bringing around library books for the detainees – Amir is desperate to get his hands on the final Harry Potter book, but the camp library only has the first six. Desperate for anything resembling a kind of resolution, he has been asking for it for two years and is beginning to believe they are denying him the book on purpose to drive him crazy.
At first Stewart treats him with disdain, especially after he treats her to a “shit cocktail” through the door hatch, which is – well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. But as the sheer boredom and monotony of camp life begin to set in for both of them, their conversations grow more frequent and their relationship approaches something resembling friendship.
It’s a new direction for Stewart, as she attempts to leave Bella Swan far behind, and she’s convincing as a young woman far out of her depth but determined to prove herself capable in a tough, male-dominated environment. Mooadi is excellent as a clearly intelligent, thoughtful man driven to extremes of childish behaviour and defiance by the sheer boredom, frustration and dehumanisation of his situation. The dialogue, however, is fairly thin and a few of its messages are a little heavy-handed, so it’s testament to the two leads that the film holds interest over the two hours.
The subplot involving Cole’s commanding officer, Corporal Ransdell (played by Lane Garrison) is pretty weak. Ransdell is a rather lazily drawn pastiche of the standard thick-necked, order-barking thug we’ve seen in every American war movie ever made. He exists purely to prompt Cole’s realisation that the line between the good and the bad guys is not always a straightforward one.
It’s unlikely to win many hearts or minds – it’s too light for that – but as an intriguing and occasionally informative look at the most notorious detention facility in the world, its worth a watch, and Stewart and Moaadi’s performances raise the film above its middling script.
Camp X-Ray is released nationwide on 17th October 2014.
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