Kristen Stewart defends ‘Murica or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Gitmo

Credit: GNK Productions

In her first film in two years, Kristen Stewart suits up as a soldier in Peter Sattler’s directorial debut Camp X-Ray. She plays Army private Amy Cole, a newbie in post 9/11 Guantanamo Bay.

Cole joins the army to escape her small town only to be stationed in Gitmo. There, she spends day after day watching over detainees and distributing books. She meets Ali, played by A Separation’s Peyman Moaadi, whose only request is for the last Harry Potter novel. He’s spent all his years in captivity reading the series, save for The Deathly Hallows. (I’m a Potterhead, so I feel his pain.) They strike up an unlikely friendship in what is to be the message movie of the year.

What’s interesting is that this could’ve easily been a short film. There are a lot of montages of soldiers milling about and detainees lying around. Sattler emphasizes the banality of Gitmo to the point where WE GET IT. It’s boring! I guess that’s kind of the point, but some of it seems like a space filler that could’ve been better used for character development.

As I wrote in my last post, it got mixed reviews at Sundance. I agree with critics that the middle drags too much. It’s a slow build until a punchy climax, which I found very touching. The tension between Moaadi and Stewart is palpable. Both give stellar performances. What the film lacks in editing is made up for in their acting.

We see humiliation on both sides of the fence, from Cole getting pelted with s—t to Ali being forced to shower naked in front of the guards. Cole has to answer to a misogynistic boss played by real life d—k Lane Garrison. The movie alludes to force-feeding of detainees during their hunger strikes, but doesn’t show anything too graphic. I can see that Sattler intended the film to be thought provoking without forcing a message too hard, like, say Welcome to the Rileys.

Another pitfall is the plausibility of Cole and Ali’s friendship. How do they talk if there are other guards making their rounds too? Wouldn’t that be super weird? It’s almost like a play near the end, where it’s just the two of them speaking. But whatever, we’ll suspend our disbelief for the plot’s sake.

Not a bad first feature for Sattler, and a solid comeback for Stewart, who took a two-year break from acting (presumably due to all the backlash and subsequent breakup, yata, yata, yata). Now she’s been quoted in a recent interview saying that she’s going to take another break, probably to make a short film. Why not school?

In other Stewart news, she’ll be getting an Oscar push for her role as the daughter of an Alzheimer’s patient in Still Alice (I loved the book). It’s funny, because she got way more critical acclaim for her part as a snarky PA to Juliette Binoche’s character in Sils Maria, but at the end of day, Sony has more money to campaign. We know she won’t win, but I’d be interested to see her play the game.

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