Coming to Amazon Prime is The Mauritanian. This legal drama is based on a true, or as the film opens with, it is a true story. It’s funny now looking back at true story films and how many of these are loosely based on the events they depict. This is where The Mauritanian comes in. This is a story about a man who was put into the most infamous prison in modern history and treated to the most heinous of acts when they were at the height of their destructive nature.
Mohamedou Ould Salahi (Tahar Rahim) is an affable individual, a well-travelled young man and fairly handsome. He’s clearly adored by his family and friends. Unfortunately, when we meet him in 2002 he also has a decent relationship with his cousin who works directly with Osama bin Laden. When the government comes calling he goes with them. Telling his mother he’ll be fine.
Cut to 2005 and the film introduces hard-hitting lawyer Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster). A woman who believes in the letter of the law and that everyone deserves their time in court. When she is told of Mohamedou, who has been in Guantanamo Bay now for three years, she takes her assistant Teri (Shailene Woodley) with her to defend him.
In another part of the country Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch) learns about how Mohamedou is now on trial and potentially could obtain freedom. When he is asked to become the head of the prosecution he also learns that Mohamedou may have also recruited the man who would go on to be one of the hijackers during 9/11, killing a longtime friend of Couch.
The stage is set
The Mauritanian is a somewhat predictable film. At this stage, many people around the world know of the atrocities that people were blamed for after 9/11 occurred. As the years have gone on we have also learned what happened behind closed doors to many individuals who had nothing to do with this event. So what does The Mauritanian bring to the table?
Outside of a predictable narrative it has much to offer. For example, there is the cinematic style McDonald chooses whenever we have a flashback of Mohamedou’s youth. There is a particular tint during the scenes that gives a sense of warmth and comfort. Then when the film cuts back to the jarring and cold nature of Guantanamo I could feel the harsh and disturbing world he found himself in.
Not only is the film visually engaging, but the cast of characters within it are also compelling, in particular Tahar Rahim. I first saw his work in Mary Magdalene as Judas and here he is phenomenal. I couldn’t help but sympathise with his plight. He is a charming young man and throughout all, he suffers he still finds time to look up and find the light, as cheesy as that might sound. His rapport with Foster’s Hollander is akin to a distant mother and son trying to find common ground. It’s impressive.
Woodley and Cumberbatch don’t fair as well, Woodley isn’t given enough time to develop as a character, she comes across as too much of a bleeding heart. Cumberbatch, also gives a well-rounded performance but he at times feels like he is in a different film. These minor quibbles aside I still enjoyed their presence in the film.
The Mauritanian is a harrowing film at times that is lead by a potent cast. It excels when it focuses on the titular figure and his phenomenal plight. Even with a narrative that is becoming familiar, this team has crafted a wonderful and emotional story that will drive you to tears when it finally brings the hammer down.