A newly enlisted young woman finds herself interacting with an accused terrorist. One who leads her to question if whether the treatment, and storage, of these terrorist is right.
Trigger Warning(s): 9/11 Imagery
Review (with Spoilers)
For 2 years Kristen Stewart hasn’t made a movie, and this seems like a good return. For after Twilight, and her personal scandal, this is the type of film which reminds you that she is an actress first, and all other labels second. Though while I’m sure most of the focus will be on Stewart, it is really the message the movie has which makes this film interesting. Now, whether the message is interesting enough to make this film worth seeing, well look below.
Characters & Story
Private Amy Cole (Kristen Stewart) has just enlisted in the US military in pursuit of doing something important. What ends up happening though is she gets assigned to Guantanamo Bay babysitting accused terrorist. Many of which act like the caged animals they are treated as. For example, they throw feces on the guards, bite them, fight them, and use various stubborn ways to get things they want or need. And amongst the accused is a man named Ali Amir (Peyman Moaadi). A man who is not the leader of the area Amy patrols, but seemingly the only one who speaks English.
And for most of the movie all he seeks out of Amy is conversation, human decency, and some sort of relief from the conditions forced upon him. For with the accused being “detainees” versus “prisoners of war,” it means a lot of things like having the lights cut off so they can sleep, allowing them to interact with other accused, and other things that happen in a normal prison aren’t options. So while you constantly question whether Ali is guilty or not, you are faced with seeing an actual person and not simply a name and picture representing the newest poster boy for terrorism.
In a post 9/11 world, to show accused terrorist as anything besides villains, especially outside documentaries, or the occasional news story, is rare. Their point of view is often omitted and it makes this film allowing Moaadi to speak for them very unique in my opinion. For while we don’t see Ali get tortured, nor brutalized like some Wikileaks wires have shown, you instead are presented with a person. One who was kidnapped and brought to this place, not given his rights, or even allowed to defend himself in a court of law. Much less, even if he did get a trial, his association with Guantanamo has pretty much made it where he cannot immigrate anyway. Thus creating this weird feeling where you want to feel bad for him but, with not knowing if he is a terrorist, it complicates the default feelings of thinking he deserves what is happening to him.
Making it where you have to praise Moaadi and Stewart’s chemistry. For while Moaadi, arguably, does most of the heavy lifting, Stewart is our sort of medium to this world. One in which we see all the soldiers having to treat these people like utter crap. Then, if you dare to create any sort of relationship with these people, you get punished. For example, due to the conversations Ali and Amy have, she is forced to watch him bathe and then, when she files a report on it, she is questioned if she filed the report solely due to her being a girl possibly jilted by her superior officer, Ransdell (Lane Garrison).
The sole thing I wish was in the film would be scenes of torture and abuse. Which, in all honesty, the film does fine without but, like when Ali talks about being interrogated, a part of me wanted to see Moaadi perform this to really drive his character’s point home. For while, as mentioned, there are news reports and documentaries on the conditions the detainees face, there aren’t a lot of films like this which are more than a security camera with VHS quality.
Overall: Worth Seeing
This is the type of film which makes you want to do your own research when it comes to the conditions of Guantanamo as well as learn about what may happen to these people besides them being stuck in the prison until they die. And, alongside that, I think this is the type of comeback film Stewart needed to not only remind us she is more than Bella, but that she should be respected not just as an actress, but also for her acting choices. Then, when it comes to Moaadi, one can only hope this film role leads to a lot more work for him. Hopefully with characters that are diverse in story and depiction.