lördag 18 januari 2014

Sundance Film Reviews: ‘Camp X-Ray’

fanspired Kristen, at first, shows a very familiar acting style — it’s her comfort zone.
She draws from her own, developed nuances to nearly every character she portrays. This is how she brings life and realism to her characters.

As the film progresses and you learn who her character is, you start to see this actress blossom, coming out of her shell. Kristen’s most brilliant work rears itself in the scenes where she’s working opposite Payman. Their chemistry is perfect; it builds into something so heartfelt. The last third of the film, you finally get to see a side of Kristen that you’ve never seen before. Perhaps the most powerful, is the final 30 min, uncut scene between Cole and Ali.
The handling of the heavy subject material was respectful and poses an important question we as Americans should be aware of — a new form of discrimination based on assumptions, not facts. Smartly, the story shifts from sympathizing with Ali and with Cole, a very balanced way of storytelling. We feel for Ali based on the circumstances he is in. We feel for Cole in that the more she discovers the real person behind Detainee 471, the more she treats him as the human being he naturally is. In terms of the direction, Peter Sattler does a great job as a newbie feature film director.

The pacing is a little off — some parts seemed to drag on while others seemed right. The original score is paired beautifully with the motion picture. It did what it’s supposed to do — it made you feel. Kristen Stewart and Payman Maadi channel Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter in this competent but politically suspect drama.

 variety (..) “Camp X-Ray” is most commendable for believably depicting the U.S. military from a female officer’s point of view, particularly as Cole gets mistreated by a macho male corporal (Lane Garrison) and dares to fight the invisible war by filing a report with the commanding officer (John Carroll Lynch).
So, too, the film treats its characters, guards and inmates alike, with clear compassion, although, as a terror-war movie, its preoccupation with the heartwarming exception to the rule too often turns bold American drama into standard operating procedure.

The two leads are excellent and play off each other deftly. Acting almost exclusively with his bearded face as seen through the cell window, Maadi (“A Separation”) calibrates precisely the character’s mix of humor, anger, despair and endurance. 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.

Editing of the nearly two-hour film could be much tighter, particularly in the midsection. James Laxton’s widescreen cinematography effectively communicates tension in both open and confined spaces. Other tech credits are sharp, with the exception of a bumpy sound mix.

Kristen Stewart's solid performance anchors the probing, human 'Camp X-Ray'
 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. Sattler wisely never tries to portray Ali as a complete innocent. The opening scenes with him are just quick enough, full of small details that are hard to sort out, that it's hard not to think that he was involved in something. But what? And when there's no trial and no push to learn anything from the people being detained, what's the point? For a country that spends so much time talking about the importance of freedom, we seem perfectly content to deny that to people over vague possible wrongdoing, and happy to have those people out of sight where we don't have to think about it.

"Camp X-Ray" is going to be a hard commercial sell, but the film has a delicate human heart, and it is ultimately rewarding. I think it's a strong indication of what Stewart can do with the right material, and it makes a case for Maadi as one of the most interesting character actors working right now. Solid, small, and sincere, "Camp X-Ray" offers an important perspective to a difficult conversation.


In essence a two-hander, it balances a powerfully internalized performance from Kristen Stewart, delivering perhaps her best screen work to date as an inexperienced military guard, against an equally compelling characterization from Payman Maadi as the long-term detainee who pierces her shell. Its psychological complexity and rich emotional rewards should ensure this expertly crafted if overlong film a significant audience. (..) Sattler’s grasp of character is strong, as is his guidance of the actors, suggesting distinct personalities among Amy’s macho fellow guards, generally with just a line or two. But the pulse of this enhanced chamber piece, much of which obviously takes place in claustrophobic interiors, is the unlikely bond of Amy and Ali.Best known for his fine work as the embattled husband in Iranian foreign-language Oscar winner A Separation, Maadi makes Ali a proud, angry man, as dismissive of his fellow inmates’ hostility as he is of the U.S. military. His bitterness when he strips Amy of her delusions about herself and what she has learned is formidable. But so too is his shattering fragility when he ponders his future.

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.

kateaurthur (..) There’s a Harry Potter metaphor that runs through the film — about Snape — that symbolizes the Sundance movie’s powerful emotional impact and its symmetrically constructed narrative. But it’s also indicative of Camp X-Ray’s tendency to overreach sometimes. Ali begins his interactions with Cole by demanding the seventh and last book in the Harry Potter series; he says he knows it exists, never gets to read it, and needs to know whether Snape is a good guy or a bad guy. It’s the kind of framing that’s designed to pay off in a play-like screenplay like Sattler’s. And it does.

As Camp X-Ray’s story unfolds, and Cole begins to identify with and like Ali, the movie relies on what’s become Stewart’s signature awkwardness. And by the film’s end, Cole has transformed. If that’s Stewart’s goal as well, Camp X-Ray is an excellent start.

vulture ..The movie is sure to be controversial (not for nothing does it open on a long, sustained shot of the smoking World Trade Center), and one character, rattled by the moral ambiguity of the guard-detainee relationship, murmurs late in the movie, "It's not as black and white as they said it was," but first-time director Peter Sattler insists that conservative critics should put away their pitchforks. "We wanted to make a movie that was not propaganda at all," he said at the premiere. "I think it's not the Gitmo movie you're probably expecting."
Stewart's costar Lane Garrison wasn't quite as circumspect. "What if there is one guy down there that's not a terrorist?" he posited at the post-screening Q&A. "Does he deserve that day in court, and what should we do with him? [Camp X-Ray] changed me to start asking questions and not just go along with the flow. I hope that's what this film does for a lot of people."

As for Stewart, who took the stage rocking unusual braids and tried her damnedest to duck audience questions, she confessed that this role hit close to home for her. "She had aspects that I have, that I really felt," Stewart said. To prepare, she shadowed "this really awesome Marine" for three days: "In a very accelerated way, he whipped me into shape. It's not a physically strenuous role, but you should see that I've had training. Literally, [it affects] how you breathe, how you walk, everything ... You don't learn anything about her, but you should feel it. We know her — it's transmitted somehow without details."

"Just putting on the uniform was a huge transformation," Sattler said, gesturing at his actress. "We did so much drilling, because it completely affected your posture." As he said it, Stewart nervously shifted her weight from foot to foot; just moments before, she'd leaned forward on her knees as if forestalling a faint, the very opposite of Cole's rigid countenance. Whether or not she's more at home in the world of independent film, those familiar, unsure poses should have K-Stew fans reassured: Seems you can take the girl out of Gitmo, and you can also take the Gitmo out of the girl.

 indiewire ... At first, however, "Camp X-Ray" maintains a grave quality on par with the actress' abilities, opening with the detainment of the aforementioned Muslim, Ali, who's swiftly carted off to the prison camp in the wake of 9/11. A frantic montage following the orange-clad victims from land to sea and finally to their harsh new home immediately establishes the aura of despair that haunts the setting throughout. From there, Sattler introduces Amy (Stewart), a soft spoken new arrival adjusting to the fratty clique of soldiers that run the camp. Cinematographer James Laxton, whose credits include the similarly atmospheric "Medicine for Melancholy" and "The Myth of the American Sleepover," captures the drab hallways and empty outdoor landscape with a delicacy that imbues the location with a nightmarish feel.

The failure of "Camp X-Ray" to force those ideas into its central relationship has a particularly dispiriting feel; in between the meandering exchanges lies an unquestionably thoughtful interrogation of a broken system. As one equally downbeat soldier asserts, "we get to babysit a bunch of sheep herders," rather than instigating any real change. Sattler continually returns to one haunting image that transcends its underwritten script: The guards, including Amy, rotating ad infinitum around the claustrophobic hallway to keep constant watch on each cell, stuck in a cycle that makes them nearly as restricted as the jailed men. It's a powerful assertion about the prospects of being trapped by misguided intentions, which sadly applies to "Camp X-Ray" itself.

Criticwire Grade: C+

thewrap “I think Kristen Stewart thrives in realistic material. She’s recognizable, human in Camp X-ray. Movie demanded it,” tweeted freelance film reporter and reviewer Matt Patches.

he Q&A that followed focused as much on the film’s music and the preparation and performance by Maadi, who many in attendance believed outshined his better-known co-star. And Stewart did little in “Camp X-Ray” to dispel the main knock on her acting — that she essentially wears the same pouty expression in every situation — though considering that she plays an emotionally conflicted military grunt in this one, it seemed to work.

Caught between her compassion for the inmates and her duty to guard and stay guarded, Stewart is inscrutable; a cipher with pulled-back hair.

“We don’t know anything about her,” she said. “Hopefully its transmitted somehow without details. We talked all the time about this girl.”

Reactions were mixed among the Twitterati streaming out of the Eccles on Friday afternoon:

Partial standing ovation for Camp X-Ray #sundance

— gregoryellwood (@HitFixGregory) January 17, 2014

Kristen Stewart and actor from A Separation are superb in Camp X-Ray. Direction has some pacing issues. Nice 3rd act. #sundance

— gregoryellwood (@HitFixGregory) January 17, 2014

CAMP X-RAY is very contained and surprisingly engaging. Props to Kristen Stewart for choosing interesting roles. #Sundance

— Ryland Aldrich (@RylandAldrich) January 17, 2014

Camp X-ray may be a tad over-clinical in its examination of Gitmo malaise, but Kristen Stewart adds unexpected warmth to it. #Sundance2014

— Matt Patches (@misterpatches) January 17, 2014

Kristen Stewart just got upstaged at Sundance by her own co-star. She’s good in camp x ray but Maadi is better

— Lucas Shaw (@Lucas_Shaw) January 17, 2014

I think Kristen Stewart thrives in realistic material. She’s recognizable, human in Camp X-ray. Movie demanded it. #Sundance2014

— Matt Patches (@misterpatches) January 17, 2014

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