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by Nigel M Smith
January 18, 2014 11:46 AM
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Sundance: What Critics Are Saying About Kristen Stewart in 'Camp X-Ray'

"Camp X-Ray."

All eyes were on Kristen Stewart yesterday on the first full day of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival to see how she fared as a Guantanamo Bay rookie in Peter Sattler's directorial debut, "Camp X-Ray." While the film received mixed notices (our own Eric Kohn called the film "half-baked"), critics all fell for Stewart's tough-as-nails turn, with Variety going so far as to compare her performance to Jodie Foster's Oscar-winning one in "The Silence of the Lambs."

In the drama, Stewart plays Cole, a newbie Guantanamo guard who develops a lasting bond with an outspoken detainee (played by "A Separation" star Payman Maadi).

READ MORE: Kristen Stewart and Miles Teller Topline Sundance's First Breakout Hits

Read what the critics in Park City had to say about Stewart's performance. The film is seeking distribution.

Eric Kohn, Indiewire
Before her gig in the "Twilight" franchise turned Kristen Stewart into a global celebrity, she had already established herself as a noteworthy screen presence in much smaller projects, with her serious, distant gaze making her ideally positioned to play lost and frustrated young women. There's a glimmer of that subdued talent in "Camp X-Ray," the debut feature of writer-director Peter Sattler that finds Stewart in the excessively unglamorous role of a Guantanamo Bay guard.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
Ever since the Twilight backlash began, people have questioned whether Stewart is merely a sullen screen queen or a real actor. She puts that argument to rest here, playing a tough, taciturn character driven by an inarticulate urge “to do something important,” but steadily awakened by unpredictable reality. It’s a fiercely contained performance, conveying raw personal insights even when Amy outwardly remains clenched in discomfort. There’s not a moment Stewart’s onscreen here where she isn’t completely transfixing.

Rob Nelson, Variety
In a turn that will surprise and impress those who know her only from the “Twilight” films, Stewart is riveting, especially in the final scenes, where Sattler reverses the camera’s perspective so that Cole is the one viewed through the window, appearing as a sort of prisoner herself.

Drew McWeeny, HitFix
Stewart manages to etch a very empathetic portrait of a young woman who isn't completely comfortable with what she's being asked to do, and the obvious ambivalence she has towards her hometown that she escaped and the life she's signed up for make her the perfect guide for us through what is a very complicated moral landscape.

Fred Topei, CraveOnline
Stewart does enter the film biting her lip, which I state objectively just because I know you were all wondering. That’s the only time though. She keeps it real.

Amber Wilkinson, The Telegraph
Stewart, who starred in the Twilight franchise, has sometimes been criticized for her stern facade but here it serves her well and makes her eventual descent into emotional territory more stark.

Matt Patches, Vanity Fair
You likely have strong opinion on Kristen Stewart's acting abilities. The Twilight movies turned you way on or way off. Well, throw that perception out the window. In her new movie Camp X-Ray, Stewart plays a Guantanamo Bay guard who befriends an inmate. You read that correctly. While the movie takes a deliberately apolitical stance and clinical approach to depicting the malaise of Gitmo life, Stewart's brand of introverted, lip-biting naturalism adds a necessary warmth to the movie. Like her character, who retreats from life in Florida to whatever the army may provide, Camp X-Ray is Stewart shedding a skin and allowing herself to be tapped for talent.

DC Film Examiner, Travis Hopson
Dressed down in a way we've never seen her before, Stewart's riveting, tough and vulnerable performance may be the finest of her career.


  • Ruby Jones | April 23, 2014 3:47 PMReply

    Looking forward to seeing Stewart in this very dramatic role. She is very dynamic in her performances, especially her roles in The Cake Eaters and The Runaways. She a strong example of what I think a strong self aware young woman should be.

  • Andrew | January 22, 2014 9:02 PMReply

    these nasty comments are from Robert Pattinson fans, the guy has a crazy fandom, full of desperate housewives who spread hate on Kristen every single day, they don't have a life. These loser really are hoping by commenting on every blog, that can hurt Kristen career.

  • Ariel Hicks | January 21, 2014 8:33 PMReply

    When is this movie in theaters? Im confused on that.

  • Jay | January 21, 2014 5:06 AMReply

    From reviews above it sounds like she's playing the same girl again. Another repetition of stern sullen lip-biting Bella. This style served her well so far but it'd be interesting to see her in a role where she would play someone else beside herself.

  • Mike | January 21, 2014 1:01 AMReply

    Good for Stewart. Think she is solid enough of the times, and has always been a bit underrated. Agree that it's apparent that the same person is making the same negative comments over and over again below to each positive comment. The one about distribution is off the wall, festival goes to the 26th and several more commercial films haven't been picked up---so I'm not sure why this one is being singled out as not being picked up yet when there is time to go and it's probably the least commercial.

  • Kyle | January 20, 2014 5:28 AMReply

    Sorry, but can't help but laugh at some of the comments here. Sundancer, Strayhan, Jacob, Eraserhead, Pullman, and Bandit sound like the same person posting the same negative comments back to back. Aside from that observation, I am glad that Camp XRay has gotten a good reviews, and that most critics have given Kristen Stewart a fair chance by not using her Twilight films against her. I think she is a fine actress with a good future ahead. Her detractors just need to move on and get over themselves.

  • Em | January 20, 2014 9:45 PM

    It's laughably transparent, isn't it? This same troll goes from blog to blog, site to site, posting the same endless drivel about Kristen Stewart in a pathetic attempt to discredit her. S/he is obsessed with her, whatever the contents of the posts might suggest. Disregard the likes of THR, Variety, LA Times, and this blog, all of which (and many, many more) gave very positive reviews for Stewart's performance in Camp X-Ray, and instead resort to quoting lesser internet blogs. This troll cannot get over her, and it's quite hysterical because you would think if Stewart was nothing to brag about and has no future, as these posts suggest, s/he wouldn't waste his or her time. But I guess that's celebrity obsession for you...

  • Sundancer | January 19, 2014 9:46 PMReply

    Not everyone liked her performance. SPIN reported that people walked out during their screening, and gave her an unfavorable review, and so did Filmschoolrejects.

    “Kristen Stewart’s performance is dead in the water, the basic and uninspired juxtaposition between the two leads fails to work as some dramatic commentary and feels amateur, and the eventually uncomfortable focus on the emotional trials of Cole (over Ali) comes across as tone-deaf.” — Critic Kate Erbland after seeing ‘Camp X-Ray.

  • Amy | January 19, 2014 8:25 PMReply

    People have underestimated Kristen Stewart over these last six years. Kristen is able to completely immerse herself and play a character so realistically that it doesn't look like she's acting. The audience is so used to seeing the acting that they don't know how to process her style. She became a girl with Friedrich's Ataxia so completely that the audience at Sundance thought Mary Stuart Masterson found a girl with the disease who could act. She adopted Joan Jett's stance, guitar-playing style, timber of voice, hairstyle, etc. Yet, she didn't mimic her, or do a caricature of her. She portrayed her as a regular teenage girl, not a stage persona. That was an incredible accomplishment. She is a fine actress. It's become a popular internet past time to bully Kristen Stewart with insults and I can't figure out why. It's very disturbing to watch.

  • Strayhan | January 19, 2014 9:55 PM

    Even if she did give a good performance, the film didn't pick up any distribution.

    She either has bad taste in scripts or there's some problem, because no film she's ever had at Sundance has gone on to show a profit. They either get small art house releases that never find an audience or they just fizzle out completely. If she keeps making films that no one goes to see, what's the point in that? It's acting, but it's nothing to brag about.

  • Nathan | January 19, 2014 12:22 PMReply

    Looking forward to seeing this. I like the idea of a female guard/male detainee face off. Two actors that most directors would probably never put together, yet it has yielded terrific results from what I have read. Good on Stewart for picking good roles and not going down the easy route after Twilight.

  • Jacob | January 19, 2014 9:58 PM

    According to her interview in the LA Times, she said she was out of work for two years but it wasn't her choice. She took this part because it's all that was offered to her at the time.

    So she's not exactly going to get points for "picking" good roles. When you take the only thing that's offered to you, she's not really in charge of her career. She's not being offered the same roles Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone are being offered. If she was, she's be in better films.

  • bren | January 19, 2014 11:01 AMReply

    Yes, Kristen Stewart is a fantastic actress and I hope that she gets an oscar nomination for her role in Camp X-Ray. And she should win best actress because she absolutely deserves it.

  • Eraserhead | January 19, 2014 10:04 PM

    They don't give Oscar nominations to actors in little indies with no distribution. She won't win any awards for this movie, except possibly another Razzie, to go along with the two she already has.

    A film has to be seen to be eligible for awards. Outside of a few hundred people at Sundance, it doesn't look like this is going to get even a small art house distribution, unless Stewart pays for that herself. There was no buzz about this film before Sundance and there's no buzz about it afterwards, either.

  • KStew Krew | January 18, 2014 11:08 PMReply

    Yes put Twilight out of our misery. Do not compare her acting to Twilight. She played Bella to a tee. Have you idiots not seen Speak or Cake Eaters or Welcome To The Rileys? Head in the sand? Panic Room ring a bell? Kristen was a well established actress way before Twilight if care to do your research. Kristen has long since moved on from Twilight & anything or anyone associated with it, along with her true fans. She has many projects coming up and will be very busy. You don't continue to get roles if you can't act. Kristen is not the typical Hollywood type starlet. That is precisely why we love her. Stop giving her shit for being true to herself and not falling into the holier than thou smug actress mold.

  • KScrew | January 21, 2014 5:13 AM

    "You don't continue to get roles if you can't act." - Yes, you do. She's know for casting couch ways of getting her roles.

  • Pullman | January 19, 2014 10:05 PM

    She's well on her way to Ione Skye relevance.

  • OutsideNotIn | January 18, 2014 7:14 PMReply

    Your saying that the only reason her acting doesn't suck is because she is being asked to play a more diciplined version of herself? That's not acting. If she can only play the roles where in any other movie, these charecterists would be dibilitaing, then that's not new and I've already seen this movie.

  • Bandit | January 19, 2014 10:09 PM

    There isn't a single note that Jennifer hits in American Hustle that is within Kristen's capability. Not ONE. She can't do funny, can't do believable frustrated wife, can't play an adult, can't play saucy, can't play sexily flirtatious in a mob setting, can't play a ball-buster.

    Kristen is very good at her ONE NOTE of intense, oh-so-serious determination. But she has no colors and no humor, no lightness and none of the ragged ADULT sexuality Lawrence conveys in AH. Kristen has no range. She didn't demonstrate any in CXR, and I'm not holding my breath for her to ever demonstrate any.

  • hut | January 18, 2014 9:46 PM

    So jlaw in American hustle is not acting ? Or Emma Stone playing the quirky funny girl in Easy A is not acting either ? Because apparently you have to play a character far from your personality to be considered as acting

  • FR | January 18, 2014 12:20 PMReply

    This is wonderful to read. Unfortunately, her work in indie fare has been largely overlooked, but she has been much, much more than the Twilight films for years. Hopefully this really will help her put Twilight behind her.