A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although Camp X-Ray -- a drama set at Guantanamo Bay -- stars Kristen Stewart, it's too mature/intense for Twilight fans. There are potentially disturbing terrorism and prison images, and one scene of fighting with a bloody wound. Detainees throw a cup of feces on the lead character's uniform and threaten suicide with a small knife. Pictures from a Penthouse magazine are briefly shown, and male and female characters are shown kissing. There's also some sexual innuendo. Language is fairly strong, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," and "a--hole." Guards drink beer during their day off, and the main character is seen drinking a glass of liquor after a hard day.
What's the story?
Cole (Kristen Stewart) joined the army because she wanted to do something important. Now she's ended up as a guard at Guantanamo Bay, where her job is not to prevent the prisoners from escaping, but to help keep them alive. Also, there are no "prisoners," but "detainees" (detainees aren't covered by the Geneva Convention). While Cole is pushing the library cart, one prisoner, Ali (Peyman Maadi), asks her for the last Harry Potter book. Though she's not allowed to have conversations with prisoners, she eventually finds herself drawn to him to the point that she's willing to risk her army career to protect his well-being.
Is it any good?
Written and directed by former graphic artist Peter Sattler, CAMP X-RAY seems like an attempt at a timely and powerful War on Terror movie. It also seems like an attempt by Stewart to break away from her dewy Twilight character into tougher and more grown-up roles. The good news is that it works. The movie plays well on a very basic level, focusing on the viewpoint of one character and forgoing any grand comments or gestures on the rightness or wrongness of it all.
It's relatively intimate, and even though it has some tough moments, it's not deliberately grueling or exhausting. Stewart is quite good, rising above her infamous lip-chewing teen angst into a character who keeps her sadness, disappointment, and even hope locked on the inside. Maadi (from the Oscar winner A Separation) is also quite good, operating mainly on learned survival tactics. Even though they only communicate through doors and glass, their chemistry is very touching.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Camp X-Ray's prison violence. How strong is it? What is shown, and what's not shown? How did it affect you? How does the impact compare to more traditionally "violent" movies?
How is the main character treated by her colleagues? In what ways is she treated as an equal? In what ways is she treated as someone different? Is she a role model?
Why is it forbidden for guards to converse with detainees? What's at risk? Is it admirable or dangerous for the main character to befriend the detainee?
How much drinking is shown? Why do the characters drink?
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