Camp X-Ray (2014)
written and directed by Peter Sattler
The process of making movies is difficult enough that it must be some uncanny magic when all the pieces come together and you get a good film, let alone a great one. Among the most difficult things to get across is tone, specially if the movie in question does not fit easily into a genre box: The latest action flick from Michael Bay may be easier to categorize than, say, the morally complicated works of Martin Scorsese or David Fincher. I’m not saying that one is necessarily better than the other, but rather that some films tend to be more gray than black and white, and that’s fine with me: In general, murky waters tend to make more interesting stories.
Camp X-Ray attempts to navigate these currents with a look at the controversial Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, and in particular at the relationship between an Army Private (Kristen Stewart) and a Tunisian detainee (Peyman Moaadi), who insists he’s been wrongly imprisoned. At a time when tensions between the Middle East and the United States are at an all time high and President Barrack Obama has called repeatedly on the closure of Gitmo, Camp X-Ray couldn’t be timelier. Yet writer/director Peter Sattler can’t seem to decide on how much he wants his movie to stir the pot with the film’s questions about unconstitutionality, military ethics, and rule of law, opting for a more lukewarm approach.
It’s an interesting try – dig too much and you might end up going overboard and hitting audiences over the head with “importance.” But the resulting focus on the eastern/western friendship puts too much of a burden on Stewart, whose lackadaisical delivery feels wrong for the part. However, Moaadi is great as a confused man who longs to connect to someone, anyone, who will just listen for a moment. You can feel the pain in his performance, the strain of what it must be like to live imprisoned for years without the basic human right of a trial. It’s the reality of many… and a sad thing to ponder.
Carlos I. Cuevas