Everyday Camouflage in “The Visitor”

The story told by Tom McCarthy in his highly commendable film The Visitor, which deals, among other things, with the issue of illegal immigration in post 9/11 USA, unfolds in part in and around a Queens, New York, detention center that is a perfect example of everyday camouflage.

In The Visitor, a recently widowed and disillusioned university professor named Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) befriends, through unexpected circumstances, a young Syrian named Tarek (Haaz Sleiman), who is arrested one day and sent to a detention center operated by the sinister “United Correctional Corporation”. When Tarek’s mother Mouna (Hiam Abass) shows up at Walter’s door some days later worried about her son, Walter takes her to Queens so she can see where her son is being detained. Walter and Mouna stop across the street from the detention center, and the following dialogue ensues:

WALTER: That’s it.
MOUNA: This is where the prison is?
WALTER: Yes. That’s it.
MOUNA: It does not look like a prison.
WALTER: I think that’s the point.

The dialogue reveals the insidiousness of everyday camouflage perfectly.

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