‘Camp X-Ray’ lets you see through the fence

Jamie Glenn

Following the relationship between a female Guantanamo Bay soldier and a quick-witted Middle Eastern terrorist detainee, the Sundance film “Camp X-Ray” is loosely based on a true story that teaches us the value of diversifying culture, while also touching on the importance of building unlikely partnerships.

re-campxrayA chain of command is very present, but is somewhat eliminated when soldier Cole, played by Kristen Stewart od “Twilight,” humanizes a Guantanamo Bay detainee who is vicious, yet soft.

Cole wears a tight bun and carries a gritty, strong-willed attitude. She is forced to overcome an internal feeling of being alienated after being the butt of many insulting jokes.

Given that Cole is the only female in a predominantly male environment, she’s taken advantage of in many circumstances.

She finds comfort in spending time with detainee Ali Amir, taking special interest in him even if doing so requires her to break her chain of command.

A very evident line is drawn between Middle Eastern practice and American military dominance.

Typical military protocol is ignored largely, humanization is non-existent and morals are questioned a number of times throughout the film.

While in confinement, Ali attempts to salvage some of his sanity by finding comfort within his Harry Potter books, abstract drawings and acute awareness of his religion.

The two characters, though very different, are one and the same. A heaviness is felt between the soldiers and the detainees throughout the film. The detainee’s are seen more as animals, not people.
Cole breaks this standard when she begins to sympathize with Ali as their relationship becomes more personal. The two are reluctant to find connections between their common emotions.

A question of innocence for Ali lingers between he and Cole the entire film.

Dimmed lighting mixed with strategic camera placement sets a chilling tone for viewers.  Silent still scenes are sporadic throughout the film making each character interaction heavier with
emotion. It should be noted that Kristen Stewart delivers a much more respectable character following her Twilight days.

Though her acting could be a bit more prominent in a few scenes, she gives a performance worthy of respect and offers a very emotional performance. Her prescence in this role was presented long enough after “Twilight” that audiences were able to see Stewart not as “Bella,” but able to see her embrace a new character and prove her diversity as an actor.

Many elements of this film are respectable, but the overall story arch is somewhat unapproachable and can at times feel unrealistic. “Camp X-Ray” functions beautifully as a story, but would never thrive in real life.

If you’d like a reason to reflect upon and question societal practices and moral guidelines, this is a film for you.