The Reel Review
The Mauritanian is the shocking story of Mohamedou Ould Salahi, a one-time 9/11 terror suspect that the U.S. government detained at Guantánamo Bay without charges for an astounding 14 years, many of those years AFTER Salahi won his case against the U.S. government to be released. The film is based on Salahi’s 2015 memoir, “Guantánamo Diary.”
Director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, Whitney) presents a compelling legal drama, first detailing Salahi’s arrest amid flimsy accusations by another detainee that he was a mastermind of 9/11, fast forwarding to three years later when attorneys Nancy Hollander and Teri Duncan (Jodie Foster and Shailene Woodley) take up his case. The Mauritanian navigates the legal drama extremely well, but is at its most compelling when it shows the human side of Salahi – the despair and his increasing disconnect from the world. The torture scenes are hard to watch, and should horrify us all.
Rahim (A Prophet, The Eagle) and Foster both give subtle, powerhouse performances, as do Woodley and Benedict Cumberbatch in their respective supporting roles as her fellow defense attorney and the U.S. prosecutor, increasingly troubled by the government’s disregard for Salahi’s rights. The Mauritanian is a must-see film, its ending both hopeful and a grim reminder that the U.S. government continues to commit horrific atrocities in the name of national security.
And the book:
• The 2020 film My Brother’s Keeper is a 21-minute documentary about Salahi’s friendship with Guantánamo Bay guard Steve Wood, and their reunion in Nouakchott, Mauritania after Salahi’s release in 2016.
• Jodie Foster, who is a huge Green Bay Packers fan, gave a shout out to quarterback Aaron Rogers when she won her Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress (above), after he had done to her when he won his MVP award for the 2020 NFL season. Rogers is engaged to Foster’s Mauritanian co-star Shailene Woodley.
• Director Kevin Macdonald and Tahar Rahim also worked together on the 2011 historical drama, The Eagle. Macdonald won an Oscar for his 1999 documentary, One Day in September, about the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics.