By Megan Bianco
The fall movie season has been knowingly thought of as ‘Oscar season’ for years since it is when the contenders are released and promoted. This season is already upon us and no different than the previous ones.
There are the usual period pieces (Unbroken, Kill the Messenger), the biopics (Foxcatcher, The Imitation Game), the dramas (The Good Lie, Still Alice, Wild), the epics (Interstellar, Mockingjay Pt. 1) and the wild card comedies (Laggies, Annie). There is also usually a film tossed in the middle of all these releases that isn’t a top runner for anything, yet still good in quality. This year Peter Sattler’s Camp X-ray seems to be it. Starring Twilight’s Kristen Stewart and Peyman Moaadi of A Separation, it makes for an unexpectedly impressive pairing.
After Pvt. Cole (Stewart) arrives at Guantanamo Bay instead of Iraq as she was expecting, her first assignment is to guard a group of Middle Eastern detainees. Each day she passes by the cells offering a stack of books for the detainees, and each time a detainee named Ali (Moaadi) attempts to grab her attention. All he seems to want is the last Harry Potter book since he’s read all the previous ones and the suspense is too much for him. Soon she discovers that he has been held captive for half a decade.
Sattler, who so far has spent most of his career as a set designer for movies like All the Real Girls and Walk the Line, has waited for this pet project to finally come to life on screen. It’s clear he’s taken the time to make Camp X-ray work, and the final product captivates the viewer with its examination of our society’s ethics.
Stewart, who has often been criticized for coming across as too angst ridden or annoyed, actually makes the emotions work this time as a soldier who isn’t sure she’s made the right choice. Moaadi, three years after breaking through with A Separation, is almost the definition of a scene stealer as the man who tries to keep his sanity intact. Though a military-centered feature, the film is primarily a dialogue piece, and relies heavily on the acting. Fortunately both Stewart and Moaadi deliver solo and opposite each other. Camp X-ray isn’t a fun, holiday-season flick, nor is it likely to sweep the Oscars, but it’s going to captivate the viewer for 90 minutes.
Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: