Camp X-Ray Review – Exceptional, Attention Grabbing, Character Driven Performances

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"Camp X-Ray," from Rough House Productions and IFC Films, brings to the screen a realistic portrayal of post 9-11 life for both terror suspects detained at Guantanamo Bay and guards responsible for keeping them alive.


Starring Kristen Stewart, Bella for "Twilight" fans, Lane Garrison, Payman Moaadi, and John Carroll Lynch (Zodiac) "Camp X-Ray" was written and directed by Peter Sattler.

"Camp X-Ray" begins September 11, 2001 with an iconic image of the smoke billowing out of Tower One, and a man, played by Payman Moaadi, clearly a possible terror suspect, returning to his home and emptying a bag of cell phones on his table. Nothing overtly in those first moments scream terror sympathizer.

As he begins his prayers, Navy Seals snatch him; he is hooded and sent to Guantanamo Bay detention center.

We then meet Sergeant Ransdell, our tough-as-nails post 9/11 new military leader, played with authenticity by Lane Garrison, as he is leading the new recruits through Gitmo Orientation.  This is where the world learns the job at Gitmo is simply keep the terror detainees alive and the fine line between prisoner and detainee.

Those moments from September 11, have long past and it is now eight years later, 2009, a new generation of terrorist and U.S. military including smart, capable and battle prepared women, with Kristen Stewart, as Cole ready to get in the mix.

The soldiers are tough, unwavering and dedicated. The terror suspects are equally tough, unwavering and dedicated.  The terror suspects may be detained, and yes, the real torture of these Abu Ghraib and other detainment camps is not portrayed. Simple control and conditioning tactics are used to quiet the possibly of riot.

The lack of humanity and the rights of fringe terror groups or those responsible as was clearly stated in the film, those responsible for 9/11 died on 9/11. And practically that is true although the larger network has proven that that simplistic theoretical belief is not true.

What time did not prove is of course, that every detainee was in fact directly involved in Osama bin Laden's terror network and therefore even by proxy some were responsible for the attack on the United States.

The guards and detainees play mind games on each other, seeing which one will break first. Cole, a good soldier, is not the mental game giant, against Ali who has had eight years of pressure and who knows the training before.

The mental attachment, based in humanity and seeing a person, even after Ali blatantly reverts to animalistic conditioned behavior, she persists and is accused of being female, translation, led by emotion, instead of a soldier and simply following orders blind to right or wrong.

With that said, "Camp X-Ray" is fictionalized and is of course a film. It is well made not with flashy set design or other movie making techniques that create illusion but with boots on the ground realism.

Stewart raises the bar once again with her performance as a guard at Gitmo who becomes mentally attached to a detainee. She proves conclusively she is more than a franchise staple and that she can handle substance of beefy roles. She goes from stilettos to Doc Martens effortlessly.

As it is an ensemble cast and all give genuine, true to character, honest performances as both military personnel, grappling with the grey area of expectation and the detainees equally arresting in their performances as possible 9-11 terrorists.  John Carroll Lynch shows up as Colonel Drummond, an understated and understanding lifer.

For an inside look at Gitmo and not simply Stewart's performance, "Camp X-Ray" is a must see

Entered at various film Festivals, throughout 2014, including the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, "Camp X-Ray" opens in theaters everywhere October 24, 2014. Check local listings.

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