The Mauritanian Review

Films about the fallout from 9/11 have been fee and far between over the almost two decades since that tragic day. The country has been looking for people to blame for those tragedies ever since. The Report and Fair Game are two of the best films dealing with the said fallout of this event in this country’s history. You can add The Mauritanian to that list now. It’s an incredible look at how prisoners were dealt with following 9/11 and the wars that followed.

A man named Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim) has been taken into custody following the events of 9/11 as a terrorist who helped recruit the men who flew the plains into the world trade center buildings and others. Like every man he is entitled to a defense for his crimes at the trial. While the government also has its own prosecutor to put this man away. Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) and Stu Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch) are respectively tasked with these jobs.

Little did they both know that the U.S. military has been using some unusual methods to get information from their prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba. Based on the real story, this film depicts the true events surrounding these events. This is a 2021 release, but it’s still set during the extended awards season. This film is definitely an awards contender, especially for Best Picture.

Over the years, Jodie Foster has been awarded multiple Academy Awards for The Silence of the Lambs and The Accused. She had a great career starting in a couple of Martin Scorsese films. She has been in films spanning multiple genres and has been doing solid work for decades. The role of Nancy Hollander might be the most important role of her career due to the importance of this film and its subject matter. She gives another solid performance.

Benedict Cumberbatch has had some acclaim with playing Sherlock Holmes in the BBC & PBS series Sherlock. He reached a worldwide acclaim though when he started playing Doctor Stephen Strange in the MCU. Even though he has played some real-life characters such as Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate and Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. Those roles we’re well-received. His role of this prosecutor who’s in between his country and putting this so-called war criminal away for life or killing him with lethal injection is brilliance on his part.

The acting and script are both first-rate in The Mauritanian. The direction is spot on by Kevin McDonald as well. He has dabbled in television, documentaries, and narrative films throughout his career, even dealing with touchy subject matter in the past with The Last King of Scotland depicting the life of genocidal maniacal despot Edi Amin. This film and story about the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is by far the most important film of his career. The story delves deep into how the treatment on these people was done. It was reprehensible treatment.

Films about real events can be hit or miss. It all depends on the script and filmmakers. How they tackle the material is the most important thing in making a great film. McDonald and his actors do a great job tackling this touchy subject matter. This was a story that needed to be put to film. Also, it needed the big-screen treatment. Viewers from all over the world should see this film on the big screen. 

This film was everything I had hoped it would be. Most films rarely live up to expectations, but this one did. I didn’t know about this story before. So it was great that it was brought to film is I could learn about it. And I am glad I did. It was a great experience to watch this film about true events in history. Hopefully, a lot of people get to have the same experience I did. 

4 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Founder/Head Film Critic

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