It's officially time to say goodbye to Bella Swan of Twilight and say hello to Amy Cole. Because, in Kristen Stewart's new Sundance movie, Camp X-Ray, audiences are getting a chance to welcome a revamped, tougher version of the actress. And, so far, they like seeing Stewart sans sparkly vampires.
In the film, Stewart, who plays the role of a newly enlisted guard at Guantanamo Bay, befriends a prisoner, Ali Amir (Peyman Moaadi), when she delivers books to Ali and his fellow detainees. Though the actress' overall performance is inviting some mix reviews, most are admiring her newest work, claiming her acting in Camp X-Ray is far superior to anything we've seen from Stewart during her run in the Twilight franchise. (And, based on the fact that we watched a lip-biting Bella for four movies, we have to say: Thank goodness.)
But this isn’t the first edgy role that the 23-year-old actress has tried out. First, she attempted her hand playing rock and roll chick Joan Jett in The Runaways. But, as Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said about her performance, Stewart faded “into dull predictability,” and only got "rolling when the movie ends.” Similarly, many critics disliked Walter Salles’ adaptation of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, in which Stewart enjoyed an on-camera threesome that far overshadowed her work in the film. In fact, by trying to previously distance herself from Bella Swan, Stewart lost her spot as the industry's highest-paid actress to Angelina Jolie.
But will she steadily climb back with a respected performance? Could Camp X-Ray change her future in the industry? Well, for starters, while we may have seen a darker, crazier side to her in The Runaways and On The Road, she really had to pull out all the stops to depict a character like Cole, who must struggle with a far from pleasant occupation. And, based on reviews, Stewart paints a scary, but realistic, image of what life might be like at Gitmo.
David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter applauds Stewart’s performance in the film for “delivering perhaps her best screen work to date as an inexperienced military guard, against an equally compelling characterization from Peyman Moaadi as the long-term detainee who pierces her shell. Its psychological complexity and rich emotional rewards should ensure this expertly crafted if overlong film a significant audience.”
So it seems Stewart is finally taking risks. Don’t get me wrong: Going nude and allowing herself to be completely vulnerable in a sex scene was a huge leap for the actress in On The Road, but something about Stewart playing a woman in the military — a far more mature role than any character she's previously portrayed — screams game-changer.
Although Marlow Stern of The Daily Beast claimed that the film “suffers from bouts of clumsy, tone-deaf writing,” he did find Stewart’s performance quite laudable. “By the end of Camp X-Ray, you’re won over by Stewart’s layered turn as Cole, and Moaadi’s as the defiant Ali,” Stern said. “It’s a role perfectly suited to her strengths — vulnerability and hidden courage — and few young actresses, with the exception of Jennifer Lawrence, can hold a close-up like Stewart.”
The critiques and reviews are still rolling in and it might be a bit early to tell, but it looks like Stewart is finally shedding her fluffy Twilight roles, for some serious, big league acting. So, hold on tight Spider Monkeys — this ride might end with you actually liking Stewart.