The Mauritanian is a true life drama which begins in November 2001, two months after 9/11, where the titular character, Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim – The Serpent), is arrested, but as we first see him, if he’s not got anything to hide, why is he erasing all the contacts from his phone?
And surely, it’s a cut-and-dried case when he’s accused of recruiting the man who flew the plane into the South Tower, containing a friend of Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch), who is asked to work on the side of the prosecution and, hence, is seeking the death penalty?
The story when moves forward to where Mohamedou has been locked up in Guantanamo Bay for three years, but hasn’t been charged with anything. Lawyer Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster), assisted by Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley), is there to defend him on the grounds that if the govt can’t prove he’s been charged with anything, they must let him free under the rules Haebeas Corpus. But can it be that straight forward?
Well, rarely is much of this for Nancy, since when she gets the case files which she’s requested from the US government, pretty much everything has been redacted, so there’s nothing to read(!)
If you’re wondering where the title came from, then at one point where the lead is on his daily exercise, he gets talking to a someone on the other side a fence who won’t use their own name in case the guards hear, so just says he’s from Marseille. Hence, for the main man, he’s The Mauritanian.
This film begins with enough elements for a decent potboiler, but alas, it just rather meanders and regardless of how things turn out, and all feels very pedestrian as you know from the start that the treatment of such prisoners are done under duress. So, you’re just waiting two hours to find out whether his conviction will be quashed. If that happens and you’re supporting that, then you’d be accused of being a traitor to your country.
Since the film is based on a true story, you could just save yourself two hours and look up the case for yourself.
As an aside, The Mauritanian has a mix of scenes in 2.39:1 in the ‘present day’ (i.e. 2005 onwards), and 1.33:1 for flashbacks, such as when Mohamedou is first locked up in Cuba, and being interrogated.
Finally, there are scenes over the credits (plot spoilers within):
The Mauritanian is on Amazon Prime Video from Thursday April 1st, but the film isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD.
Running time: 129 minutes
Release date: April 1st 2021
Studio: Amazon Prime Video
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (most scenes); 1.33:1 (some scenes)
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Producers: Adam Ackland, Leah Clarke, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lloyd Levin, Beatriz Levin, Mark Holder, Christine Holder, Branwen Prestwood Smith, Michael Bronner
Screenplay: Michael Bronner, Rory Haines, Sohrab Noshirvani
Novel: Guantánamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, edited by Larry Siems
Music: Tom Hodge
Mohamedou Ould Slahi: Tahar Rahim
Nancy Hollander: Jodie Foster
Stuart Couch: Benedict Cumberbatch
Teri Duncan: Shailene Woodley
Neil Buckland: Zachary Levi
Emmanuel: Denis Ménochet
Mohamedou’s Mother: Baya Belal
Joe: Pope Jerrod
John: Daniel Janks
David: Ralph Lawson
Colonel Bill Seidel: Corey Johnson
Whit Cobb: Adam Neill
Mohamedou’s Father: Ahmed El Khadar
18-Year-Old Mohamedou: Elbar M’Boirik
Steve / Green Mask Man: Zak Rowlands
Wafa: Meena Rayann
Karim: Kiroshan Naidoo
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.