The Mauritanian movie review: A powerful drama that brings home the horrors of Guantanamo

The Mauritanian film solid: Tahar Rahim, Jodie Foster, Benedict Cumberbatch, Shailene Woodley
The Mauritanian film director: Kevin MacDonald
The Mauritanian film ranking: 3.5 stars

Truth could also be secreted away behind two layers of excessive partitions, guarded by the US military, in an island in the midst of nowhere, distant from the proverbial lengthy arm of the regulation. Truth, nonetheless, has a manner of unveiling itself.

And so it does with Guantanamo Bay — that darkish secret of America’s famed justice system that’s now identified to the world in all its horrific, waterboarded, hooded, orange overalls and chains, canine and torture, element. The Mauritanian is a grim reminder, at a time when the US is long gone its Bush-Obama binary whereas the island facility nonetheless stands regardless of guarantees to close it.

A real story, it’s primarily based on a ebook written by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, concerning the 14-plus years he spent in US custody after being whisked away within the midst of a marriage from his residence in Mauritania, Africa, two months after 9/11. There are dots that time to a Slahi-al Qaeda hyperlink, in addition to a cellphone name to him by a cousin from Osama bin Laden’s satellite tv for pc cellphone. In that heated War on Terror within the days following the assault on US soil, he’s described by one official as “the al-Qaeda Forrest Gump, a man who is everywhere”. No one has time for niceties resembling analyzing if the dots add as much as one thing.

It is in 2005 that an article in Der Spiegel (Slahi studied and lived in Germany) introduced his destiny, unknown to even his household, to mild. And caught the attention and rising curiosity of a lawyer identified to take up human rights causes, Nancy Hollander.

There are few greys on this movie instructed from the angle of Slahi, and shot largely in grim, darkish rooms the place he should maintain out towards the lies piling up round him. Hollander, her assistant Hendrick, and the lead prosecutor Colonel Couch should search for the reality buried deep behind information, packing containers, redacted strains, nationwide safety partitions, privilege panels, authorities committees, and confidentiality clauses.

In that, The Mauritanian is disappointing, squandering an opportunity to inform the varied layers on this story that’s distinctive but in addition common in how the state and system can overwhelm a person. There isn’t any sense of the place the system is coming from, and the way it struggled to unravel the numerous threads untangled by 9/11, half-way the world over, in cultures it had little concept about — with a few of the mess of its personal making.

However, the superb French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim, who performs Slahi, retains you deeply invested within the man. Slahi by no means permits you to overlook what it took for that man, as soon as described as an distinctive scholar, seen as the good hope of his folks, to maintain his humanity because the partitions closed in over 14 lengthy years, together with 70 days of intensive torture and three years of 18-hours-a-day interrogations. Slahi kinds friendships, with a fellow inmate he solely barely catches a glimpse of and a guard with a human contact, and holds on to his reminiscence of residence with its sand-filled deserts, camels, sea and bonfires. His physique droops however Slahi finds the braveness to work up a smile.

Director MacDonald will get only some probabilities to shoot his protagonist exterior his micro-cell — leaving which is itself a painful course of — however when he does get one, each he and Slahi convey the liberty {that a} glimpse of the sky and a patch of daylight can imply. One stunning day, a soccer soars out of the air and lands at Slahi’s eagerly dribbling toes. The inmate who has kicked the soccer to him says his interrogator gave it after he had “given them a name”. “Omar Sharif,” he says, as Slahi laughs. “The Americans don’t know shit about anything that is not American.”
Foster as Hollander is characteristically metal and silk, straightforward to be moved, laborious to be displaced. Woodley as her assistant and Cumberbatch because the prosecutor have a lot much less to do. Hollander additionally underlines what makes The Mauritanian as a lot concerning the previous, the current and the longer term (together with for us right here at residence). The case, she says, is about the precise of habeas corpus and never only one individual. The Constitution, she provides, “does not have an asterix at the end saying who you can and can’t defend”.

Defending it, and never the federal government, she implies, doesn’t make one “a traitor” — fast although the federal government could also be to name you that.

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