Despite the bleak setting of a Guantanamo Bay detention camp, Camp X Ray gives viewers reason to have hope in humanity. Prison Guard Amy Cole (played masterfully by Kristen Stewart) befriends detainee Ali Amir (played equally masterfully by Paymen Moaadi) despite the warnings of her superiors at Guantanamo.
Most of the movie takes place in one hallway of the detention center that Cole patrols and Ali resides in. This setting effectively portrays the monotony of life at maximum security Guantanamo Bay for guards and detainees alike, but it also causes the movie to slow down significantly in the middle when you characters have been developed but it takes too long to reach a climax.
There is no doubt there are political undertones in Camp X Ray but the crux of the story is of a relationship between a courageous, loving guard and a flawed but still human detainee. A number of side stories provide context and even moments of humorous respites but even in the midst of these the viewer wants to get back to see what is going to happen with Cole and Ali. Will Cole be burned by her courage and generosity? Will Ali hurt her? Himself? Will he be freed? Will the relationship turn romantic?
Director Peter Sattler never reveals whether Ali is guilty and deserving of his stay at Guantanamo but you get the sense that Cole is not concerned with his guilt or innocence. She is steadfast in her refusal to define a person by their past actions. Cole is admirable and a model for how we ought to work to see the humanity and the original goodness in all people and if she is able to do that with a detainee at Guantanamo Bay can’t we do that with our neighbor? Or family member? You will walk out of the theater inspired to see people through a new lens and love in a new way. We all have the power to give people the dignity they deserve and Amy Cole did that in a way that brought me to tears. These were not the kind of tears I was expecting when I walked into the theater.