While I was out shopping today, I found a movie I’d never heard of called Camp X-Ray.
“Hoping to escape her small town roots and make a difference in the world, a young woman joins the military and is soon assigned a guard position at Guantanamo Bay. Surrounded by hostile jihadists and aggressive squadmates, she discovers that her mission is far from the black and white ideal she thought it would be. Striking up an unusual friendship with one of the detainees, she finds herself in an ethical quagmire that upends the simple view of the war she had and may lead to an unlikely bond between two sworn rivals. Featuring a standout performance from Kristen Stewart, Camp X-Ray is an incisive look at a conflict where nothing is as simple as good vs. evil.”
Honestly, one of the reasons I picked up this movie was because I’m sometimes interested in the ethical representation of military life in the media. There seem to be a lot of movies that glorify the American violence in some of the modern conflicts and I have yet to see one that I feel accurately portrays some of the more subtle and complicated parts of that kind of lifestyle.
I was impressed by this movie because it showed how simple things get very complicated, very fast. In the movie, Private First Class Cole is assigned to Guantanamo Bay and gets hit in the face on her very first day. On the bus ride away at the end of the day, the other soldiers are asking about her bloodied lip and Corporal Ransdell, the person in charge of her shift makes, a joke that he thinks is funny about how it looks like she’s got Herpes, instead of appreciating what she went through that day. They weren’t supportive, they made fun of her. Later, the movie showed a party that the soldiers were all at in their off time. There was drinking at the party and the Corporal in charge of Cole’s shift tried to make out with her and she shoved him off. She left the party and worked to avoid Ransdell and his social interaction for the rest of the movie.
This impacts the rest of the interactions between Cole and the rest of her coworkers. It’s a very complicated and emotionally charged movie that I think is probably one of the most accurate representations of military life that I’ve seen. For the most part, this movie doesn’t have any action in it. No guns blazing, explosions, or scenes with unbelievable hand-to-hand fight scenes. It showed the monotony of a redundant life, where the vast majority of your time is spent in boring and repetitive tasks and your coworkers can make your life uncomfortable in small or big ways. It clearly demonstrates how there aren’t really clean lines in situations like this. Not with the soldiers in situations that are more ethically complicated than anyone thinks. Not with the detainees who may or may not have taken actions that cost lives. Not in the interpersonal relationships between soldiers. Not in the interpersonal relationships between soldiers and detainees. There really aren’t any clear lines and we’re all humans, trying to do the best we can with the lives we live.
To clarify – this movie doesn’t vilify anyone. There are no good guys and there are no bad guys. There are no good guys and no bad guys.
My emotions were so confused at the end of this movie that I was extremely happy I’d purchased this movie that I had never actually heard of before and I wanted to give it a four on my rating scale. I think I am very likely to watch this movie again, but I also understand that my viewing and opinion of this movie have several different levels of bias that might have positively impacted me.