Peter Sattler’s Camp X-Ray is both an illuminating and bleak depiction of the violence and inhumanity experienced by detainees of a camp in Guantanamo Bay.
Part of the 'debate' category of this year's BFI London Film Festival, the plot device lies in the telling of this story though the eyes of a young female Private, Amy Cole (Kristen Stewart) who is a fresh recruit keen to toughen herself up in post-9/11 America. As we live through Amy's experience, we are privy to the still-male dominated and sometimes sexist world of the US army. Struggling to find her place within the rigid structure of the POV camp, Stewart strikes up an unlikely alliance with a detainee (a must-see Peyman Maadi), bringing to light the fact that she may have more in common with the prisoners than her actual comrades.
Kristen Stewart has received a lot of flack for her 'samey' performances across the board of late and here was a true test of not just her ability as an actress but of her desire to encompass a complex and empathic role in a hotly controversial film. This is a far cry from her teen franchise era, as her performance is appropriately understated, leaving room for the subject matter to open up a debate to audiences and make their own minds up.
The abrupt ending will leave you will leave you reeling, but ultimately will not be a film to sweep under the carpet any time soon. A suitable film for the time, Camp X-Ray is not a tale of joy or hope, but is well worth viewing to make your own mind up on where you stand.
See Camp X-Ray at the upcoming festival. Visit the BFI website for viewing times and film details.