Two years ago, Alyssa Rosenberg wrote an open letter to Kristen Stewart in Slate, offering advice in the wake of the fifth and final installment of the Twilight series. Her first suggestion: “Move beyond the princess.” Now, Stewart has done just that in the Guantánamo Bay drama Camp X-Ray, which met at Sundance with ample praise for its leading actress.
Stewart plays Amy Cole, a new soldier assigned to the detention camp in Cuba. The stage is set for drama when a superior offers her advice on how to treat the detainees: “Do not let them get inside your head.” Which, of course, is exactly what she proceeds to do when she befriends Ali, a self-proclaimed innocent detainee (Payman Maadi) locked up for eight years after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Director Peter Sattler says of his choice to cast Stewart, “This is a minimalist role, a very internal performance … Everything was living and dying on her face—it was a game of inches, not yards.” While some critics expressed mixed feelings about the film as a whole—that it was perhaps too long or half-baked—praise for Stewart’s performance has been mostly unanimous. And Maadi has been met with admiration as well, dubbed by at least one critic as “one of the most interesting character actors working right now.” Hopefully their chemistry will compensate for some, if not all, of the alleged narrative shortcomings. The movie hits theaters on Oct. 17.