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The Mauritanian

Now showing on Amazon Prime Video.

Directed by Kevin McDonald and based on Mohamedeu Ould Slahi’s book about his 14 year imprisonment in the US governments Guantanamo Bay base. Slahi (Tahir Rahim) was arrested in his home country of Mauritania and shipped to Guantanamo in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and this film tells the story of  Slahi’s time held without charge and the legal case to challenge his imprisonment led by Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster).

The Mauritanian, as you can imagine, offers a shocking and often harrowing account of Slahi’s time in prison, alongside the long, often hampered, battle to question the legality of his imprisonment and give Slahi his opportunity in court.

The film itself, while intriguing, is interestingly restrained avoiding the easy option of showing scene after scene of shocking treatment. Instead McDonald is more balanced, choosing to be patient, reflecting more on the long term incarceration and glimpses of humanity, which has the effect of, when we do see his torture, it been more shocking.

Alongside this we have the more procedural legal drama which plays out much as expected, the difficulties of discovery, the attempts to obfuscate the evidence and the eventual realisation, on both sides, of the lawlessness and abuse carried out at Guantanamo.

Tahir Rahim portrays Slahi with a quiet dignity and you can see why his performance has garnered awards attention. Foster and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Stuart Couch, as opposing legal council, bring what you’d expect, evolving their characters as they discover more of the abuses.

I did enjoy The Mauritanian and McDonald’s restrained approach. But wonder whether that leaves it feeling too much standard legal drama, not quite capturing the shocking nature of Slahi’s story and the broader questions about Guantanamo.

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