The Mauritanian – Film Review
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Writers: Michael Bronner (screenplay by) (as M.B. Traven), Rory Haines (screenplay by)
Stars: Tahar Rahim, Nouhe Hamady Bari, Saadna Hamoud, Jodie Foster
The Mauritanian is on Amazon Prime Video from April 1st.
This is the story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim). He was an Electrical Engineer living and working in Mauritania in north-west Africa at the time of the September 11 attacks in 2001. He was detained by the Mauritanian authorities for questioning on the 29th of September the same year and was later interrogated by the FBI. At that point, the CIA used extraordinary rendition to transport him to Jordan and eventually to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in 2002. This film tells his story but adds two extra elements to the tale in the form of his defence attorney Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) and the prosecuting attorney Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch).
The film is based on the book “Guantánamo Diary”, which was written by Mohamedou while in the detention camp and was published in January 2015. It tells a harrowing story of the treatment he received and also his long journey to receive any level of justice from the American authorities. The film is directed by Scottish director Kevin Macdonald who is known for The Last King of Scotland (2006) and to a lesser extent, State of Play (2009).
This work is highly political and for once it’s hard to argue that America are the good guys! It is important for America to acknowledge its failings and abuses of power, and that is certainly the case here. If you’re expecting a courtroom drama with many twists and turns, you’ll be sadly disappointed. At times, the story felt a little predictable as we’ve all seen the images of what went on in Guantanamo Bay. It may have helped to tell us more about Mohamedou before his time in the camp to give depth to his character. The main point of interest is the performance of Jodie Foster as the grizzled defence attorney Nancy Hollander. Foster recently won the Golden Globe for best-supporting actress in a film and the award is well deserved. It was quite a surprise she was snubbed for a similar nomination at the Oscars. Benedict Cumberbatch, on the other hand, does little with the role of Stuart Couch, as he focuses on the stoicism of this army man. Tahar Rahim turns the character of Mohamedou into a warm and likeable character, despite having little to work with. Overall, the film is a well-constructed piece, but the script could have done with a few tweaks to turn it into the film the story deserved.