The Mauritanian Review – Powerful, A Disturbing, Explosive True Story

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The Mauritanian, from STX Entertainment, brings to the screen the story of Mohamedow ould Slahi, who was detained and held with charges in Guantanamo Bay prison for nearly fourteen years during the post 9/11 terrorist roundup post.

The film begins in Mauritania, a small Islamic nation in Africa, at a wedding celebration. Mohamedow ould Slahi, played by Tahar Rahim, is home from Germany to celebrate. It is post 9/11 and the Islamic world is feeling the pressure as the United States is continuing to round up suspected terrorists, transport them to Guantanamo Bay, Cuban.

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Mohamedow appears to be obscurely connected, by circumstantial evidence, to someone associated with Osama Bin Laden and determined to be the mastermind. He is among those rounded up by the United States.

We meet Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, a by formidable military prosecutor, assigned to prosecute, Slahi, who the government had seen as the organizer of the September 11, terror attacks. Couch had lost a good friend in the attacks.

We also meet Nancy Hollander, played by Jodie Foster, an Albuquerque, N.M. attorney who had successfully represented cases against the government since Vietnam. A friend approaches her about this case, Slahi held without charges, continues to protest his innocence, the government had hired a big gun and Slahi needed legal help.

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Hollander explains, as per her agreement, notifying the partnership of her pro bono cases was simply a courtesy so she wasn't asking permission to take on Slahi's cases. After understanding he speaks French, she drafts Teri Duncan, an assistant, played by Shailene Woodley, to join her on the case.

It is at this point the film moves into the second act of the film and the audience understands the objectives of each sides and the tactics each will use to achieve their goals.

Hollander and her team are limited by the extremely broad powers of the government to invoke National Security protection. While Couch is seeing through the blockade and failure to provide full transparency as an indicator the government may not have the evidence on the mastermind.

After the Gitmo interrogation teams are unable to secure the information they need, including a full confession, the revert to prisoner of war interrogation tactics including sexual humiliation, stress positions, sleep deprivation, mind control, starvation, threats of injuring to family members, and continued injustice.

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Finally, Hollander wins her day in court first under Habeas corpus which compels the government to provide discovery. Which opens the floodgates to documentation, hidden files, and finally unredacted information.

Throughout the film the temperatures run high over the defense of the person whom the government has branded as the mastermind of September 11 terror attacks. Each are motivated by conscience and evidence.

Together they face countless obstacles in a desperate pursuit for justice. Their controversial advocacy, along with evidence uncovered by Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch eventually reveals a shocking and far-reaching conspiracy.

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The Mauritanian is a powerful film, with exceptionally strong performances, and a disturbing, explosive true story of a fight for survival against all odds. Jodie Foster and Tahar Rahim have each received Golden Globe nominations for their performances.

The Mauritanian is playing in select theaters and will open wide and on VOD and other streaming platforms on February 12, 2021. See it.


Country: USA.

Runtime: 129minutes.

Language: English, Arabic, French, with subtitles.

Director: Kevin Macdonald.

Screenplay: M.B. Traven and Rory Haines & Sohrab Noshirvani.

Based Upon the Book: "Guantanamo Diary" by Mohamedou Ould Slahi

Producer: Adam Ackland, Leah Clarke, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lloyd Levin, Beatriz Levin, Mark Holder, Christine Holder, Branwen Prestwood Smith, Michael Bronner.

Cast: Jodie Foster, Benedict Cumberbatch, Shailene Woodley, Tahar Rahim, Zachery Levi.

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