Kristen Stewart is well cast as a young woman who joins the Army and winds up as a prison guard at Guantanamo Bay in Camp X-Ray.
First-time writer-director Peter Sattler puts his protagonist through two concurrent trials: trying to avoid establishing a relationship with the Iranian detainee she guards on a daily basis, and battling the isolation (and sexism) she experiences as the only woman on the base. The film is flawed but intriguing on both counts.
The Filmmaker stretches credibility more than once. Stewart is warned about maintaining her distance from the prisoner but allows herself to become emotionally entangled. His side of the relationship is actually more interesting. At first he treats her like any other guard: someone to be tricked, taunted, even abused. In time, he comes to realize that she actually cares about him and sees him as a human being.
Sattler creates a tangible sense of place, filling his drama with mundane, telling details of life at a remote outpost. Stewart’s stoic performance is quite good, and Peyman Moaadi (who made such a vivid impression in A Separation) is heartbreakingly believable as a man who has lost almost all hope but tries to maintain his dignity.
Like so many promising films, Camp X-Ray goes on too long: once Sattler indicates where the story is headed, his film loses momentum and tedium sets in. Still, it’s an interesting picture anchored by two solid performances.