By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire January 18, 2014 at 11:46AM
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 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.