Mohamedou Ould Slahi fights for freedom after being detained and imprisoned without charge by the U.S. Government for years.
Based on a true story, ‘The Mauritanian’ tells the story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim), a man who was essentially kidnapped from his home in Mauritania and imprisoned without charge for 14 years in Guantanamo Bay. It’s a film about the personal toll this experience takes on Slahi, and it’s also about the ethics (or lack of) and secrecy that surrounds US policy in this space. It follows Slahi’s case from three perspectives, his, his attorney Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) and military prosecutor Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch), all of whom are trying to get truth and justice from different angles.
The best thing about ‘The Mauritanian’ are the performances, with Jodie Foster in fine form as Hollander, a tough and tenacious attorney who is like the proverbial dog with a bone, and Tahar Rahim impressive as Slahi. In terms of the film itself it falls into the good not great category, with the sections with Cumberbatch in particular failing to spark to life. When the focus is on Slahi or Hollander the movie comes alive, but I felt it dragged whenever the focus switched to Couch, more a symptom of the writing than of Cumberbatch’s performance, which is fine. Part of that is the nature of the story given it deals in people trying to overcome the US government’s frustration techniques designed to prevent the truth from coming out, even to those ostensibly on their ‘side’ like Couch, but I think it’s also down to the filmmakers. Perhaps removing Couch from the movie and focusing solely on Hollander and Slahi would have yielded a leaner and more intense film.
I thought ‘The Mauritanian‘ was a good movie about the issues and ethics surrounding Guantanamo Bay with strong performances from Jodie Foster and Tahar Rahim that help to elevate material that sometimes seems afraid to leave the middle of the road.
Directed By: Kevin Macdonald
Starring: Tahar Rahim, Jodie Foster, Shailene Woodley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zachery Levi, Corey Johnson, Denis Menochet, Saamer Usmani and David Fynn