Home The Mauritanian

The Mauritanian (15)

Cast: Tahar Rahim, Shailene Woodley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jodie Foster
Genre: Drama
Author(s): MB Traven, Sohrab Noshirvani, Rory Haines
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Release Date: 01/04/2021
Running Time: 129mins
Country: UK/US
Year: 2021

In November 2001, the head of Mauritania's intelligence service spirits Mohamedou Ould Slahi away for questioning about his cousin Mahfouz Ould al-Walid. Three years later, German newspaper Der Spiegel publishes an article claiming Mohamedou is being held at Guantanamo Bay. Criminal defence lawyer Nancy Hollander arranges access to Mohamedou accompanied by associate Teri Duncan. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Couch prepares to lead the death penalty case against Mohamedou.


 

LondonNet Film Review
The Mauritanian (15)

Compassion, humanity and basic civil rights become collateral damage of the so-called war on terror in Glasgow-born director Kevin Macdonald’s legal drama. Based on Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s harrowing memoir Guantanamo Diary, written during detention on Cuban soil, The Mauritanian coolly details Slahi’s horrifying ordeal, which saw him held without charge for 14 years and subjected to sleep deprivation and torture. Scriptwriters MB Traven, Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani oscillate between Slahi and the opposing legal eagles, played with fiery determination by Jodie Foster and restraint by Benedict Cumberbatch, who end up on the same side when they separately discover the methods used to extract an incriminating statement…

Those scenes of violence and intimidation, including a mock execution at sea shot from the point of view of the hooded prisoner, are grist to Macdonald’s cinematic mill as he celebrates the enduring power of the human spirit. French actor Tahar Rahim brings a quiet determination and warmth to Slahi, who opens his evidence to the District Court Of Columbia without any apparent bitterness: “I do not hold a grudge against those who abused me.”

In Macdonald’s film, we first meet Mohamedou in November 2001, carefree among revellers at a traditional Mauritanian wedding. The head of the northwest African republic’s intelligence service arrives to spirit him away for questioning about his cousin and brother-in-law Mahfouz Ould al-Walid, whose ties to al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden are red flags for the Americans. Mohamedou leaves the festivities, cheerfully telling his mother: “Save me some cake.” They never lock eyes again. Three years later, German newspaper Der Spiegel publishes an article claiming Mohamedou is being held at Guantanamo Bay on suspicion of being one of the organisers of the September 11 attacks.

French lawyer Emmanuel Coste (Denis Menochet) brings the case to the attention of no-nonsense criminal defence lawyer Nancy Hollander (Foster). She arranges access to Mohamedou accompanied by associate Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley). Meanwhile, Colonel Bill Seidel (Corey Johnson) approaches Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Couch (Cumberbatch) to lead the death penalty case against Mohamedou. The Mauritanian is accused of recruiting Marwan Al-Shehhi, hijacker pilot of United Airlines flight 175. Couch’s friend Bruce Taylor was a passenger and the military prosecutor swears justice for the fallen.

Prefaced simply by “This is a true story”, The Mauritanian ticks off cinematic tropes such as lawyers doggedly sifting through evidence boxes and an affirmation that the guilty have a right to robust legal counsel. It is captivating albeit conventional storytelling, enlivened by the performances, particularly Foster’s rabble rouser. One minute of real footage of Mohamedou returning to Mauritania packs the biggest emotional punch, throwing into sharp relief the clinical, clean cut approach of Macdonald’s film to its inspirational subject.

– Jo Planter


London Cinemas Showing The Mauritanian


From: Friday 18th June
To: Thursday 24th June

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UK and Irish Cinemas Showing The Mauritanian


From: Friday 18th June
To: Thursday 24th June

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From: Friday 25th June
To: Thursday 1st July

No cinema infomation at the moment