The Mauritanian (Drama, Thriller) [Based on a True Story] [Based on a Memoir] (2021)
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Writer: Michael Bronner, Rory Haines, Sohrab Noshirvani, Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Based on book by)
Stars: Tahar Rahim, Jodie Foster, Benedict Cumberbatch, Shailene Woodley
Based on the ‘’Guantánamo Diaries’’ written by Mohamedou Ould Slahi himself, ‘’The Mauritanian’’ follows his detention in Guantánamo Bay after allegedly being involved with Al Qaida and being responsible for the recruitment leading to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York.
With previous success in both historical and judicial drama’s, most famously ‘’The Last King of Scotland’’, director Kevin Macdonald takes a cinematically investigative look into Guantanamo Bay’s controversy and specifically the incarceration of Mauritanian national Mohamedou Ould Slahi, played by Tahar Rahim.
It was inevitable that someday we’d get a film based around Guantánamo Bay, Its detention camp and the atrocities committed there. While ‘’The Mauritanian’’ will certainly not be the first film to feature the location, it might very well be the most confronting and realistic depiction of the camp. Centred around Mohamedou and lawyer Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster), who picked up the case. Most of the film is a shuffle between these individuals, with Stuart Coach (Benedict Cumberbatch) taking a backseat role as the military prosecutor for the government trying to prove Slahi to be guilty of all charges. As a viewer, your perspective is mostly that of Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley), as you’ll be unsure whether to feel compassion or contempt for Slahi, being familiar with the real-life situation or not. While the truth remains somewhere in the middle throughout the film, director Macdonald balances the positives and negatives, never giving a definitive answer to the viewer. Accurate or not, it is undoubtedly a complex subject, yet more so in real life than it is portrayed here.
Without going into the real world complications too much as a drama, the film works pretty well; there are minor inconsistencies and making everyone’s role as important as the next is an aspect that has been fumbled. Yet the aspect ratio adjustments made to serve as flashbacks of Slahi’s incarceration stand out most negatively; while certainly effective when introduced, they end up solely being a grievance working against the enjoyment of the movie as a whole. Jodie Foster and Benedict Cumberbatch logically stand out the most for a majority of audiences. If ''The Mauritanian'' does anything impeccably, it’s the casting, the actors are brilliant, to begin with, but the resemblance they have to the real-life counterparts is an achievement on its own.
I’m positive that if the individuals played by Foster and Cumberbatch would’ve been defined some more and gotten their time to shine with extra impactful scenes and dialogue instead of the somewhat monotonous instances they got dealt ‘’The Mauritanian’’ would be just as good if not better than some of Macdonald’s past work.
An unpleasant but dedicatedly respectful look at the atrocities in GTMO.