REVIEW: The Mauritanian is powerful and enraging

Jodie Foster white hair and all in Mauritanian)

Based on true events, The Mauritanian is a legal drama film adapted from the 2015 international best selling book Guantanamo Diary, written by Mohamedou Ould Salahi, the first and only diary written by a Guantanamo “detainee,” which details the true story of the horrific torture he sustained at the hands of American military personnel during his captivity. 

The film follows the story of Salahi, (Tahar Rahim), the intelligent and charming Mauritanian who was imprisoned for 14 years under the suspicion of recruiting key players in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on American soil, in 2001.

MCU’s Dr Strange star Benedict Cumberbatch plays straight laced, military prosecutor Lt. Stuart Couch, who is tasked in bringing charges against Salahi for his alleged involvement in the terrorist attacks while defense attorney Nancy Hollander (Jody Foster) and her associate and translator, Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley) are attempting to defend him. The three attorneys have to sift through countless pages of redacted documents to try and discern the truth.

Hollander and Duncan gain Salahi’s trust and convince him to share the details of his torture through writen corespondence. The letters describe just about every kind of torture imaginable.

At the same time, concurrently in the storyline of the movie, Couch asks his buddy, who happens to be one of Salahi’s torturers, Neil Buckland, played by DC’s Shazam star, Zachary Levi for help gaining access to the highly classified files he needs in order to compile enough evidence to charge Salahi.

Unfortunately, he was given a lot more than he bargained for and the classified files detailed every second of torture, who ordered it, who perpatrated it, and how Salahi responded to it. 

Even though 9/11 occurred over 20 years ago, this might still be “too soon” for some viewers. It details a very dark period in American history where the country was so blood thirsty for justice and vengeance that we threw human rights right out the window and had very little issues with physical, emotional, and mental torture used on people who had been detained indefinitely without any criminal charges. 

Early in The Mauritanian, it becomes apparent that viewers are meant to identify with and empathize with the alleged terrorist and the “villain” is the prosecutor Couch, as well as the US government and military. Cumberbatch does an incredible job in this role.

The corruption and conspiracy is quickly illustrated and established and we see that Couch isn’t the “bad guy.” His quest isn’t to sentence a possibly innocent man to death, but to find out the truth of what has transpired.

Foster embodies Hollander spectacularly and does what we have come to expect from Foster — perfectly embodying someone who was willing to defend the worst of the worst, without giving up any tells that would lead you to believe you know what’s going on in her brilliant mind. 

Cumberbatch presents as the perfectly coiffed military man in an impeccably maintained uniform, high and tight haircut, and clean shaven, slender face. The depth of his voice with his slight southern drawl created the perfect performance for his character.

Academy Award winner Jodie Foster, who won a Golden Globe last night for best supporting actress for this role, was also a perfect choice for her real life counterpart. Nancy Hollander has been fighting for justice since 1980 and is an internationally recognized criminal defense lawyer and has been recognized as one of America’s Best Lawyers annually since 1989. 

Shailene Woodley seems to slip effortlessly into her role as the endearing and trusting assistant to Hollander, who wants to believe their client is 100% innocent before they even have access to the case files or the charges the US intends to bring against Salahi. 


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Tahir Rahim does an absolutely sensational job as accused alleged terrorist recruiter Mohamedou Ould Salahi. Rahim speaks several languages, much like his character as well as the real person behind the character who speaks at least 4 languages fluently, which really made him believable as Salahi. He also lost a lot of weight in order to play a man who survived every torture imaginable.

The Mauritarian will be available on online streaming services on March 2, 2021. 

The Mauritanian | Official Trailer [HD] | February 12

Bottom Line: The Mauritanian is difficult to watch but Reel See.

Runtime: 129 minutes    Rating: R       Watch: Netflix

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Joia DaVida reports on the entertainment industry in both Chicago and Los Angeles.

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