The Mauritanian tells a heartbreaking tale of injustice, brutality, and moral reckoning after the tragic terrorist attacks of September 11. Based on the book “Diario de Guantánamo”, the film is the true story of Mohamedou Ould Salahi, who was transferred clandestinely by delivery to the prison camp in Cuba. His questioning, the tactics used, and the efforts to free him are explored in a well-acted, but overly procedural narrative. The Mauritanian makes a compelling case for introspection. We must hold the perpetrators of this heinous crime accountable, but we cannot trample on our core values or succumb to unfettered revenge.
The film opens on a beach in Mauritania two months after September 11, 2001. Mohamedou Ould Salahi (Tahar Rahim) has returned from Germany to attend a relative’s wedding. Local authorities take him away while his terrified mother watches. Two years later, in New Mexico, prominent civil rights attorney Nancy Hollander (Jodie foster), is approached by a former colleague (Denis Ménochet) to review a pro bono case. Salahi’s family reached out to him after reading an article in a German magazine. It was his first clue as to Salahi’s whereabouts after disappearing.
The Mauritanian he then shifts his perspective to Hollander, and his junior partner, Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley), meeting Salahi for the first time at Guantanamo Bay. They are surprised that I can speak English, but are afraid to speak openly. Hollander informs him that the United States Supreme Court has granted Guantanamo Bay detainees the right to an attorney. She asks Salahi to write detailed notes on how he got to the camp and his treatment inside. Salahi had never been charged with any crime.
At the same time, the White House and the Department of Defense requested the death penalty for aiding and inciting the 9/11 hijackers. Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch) is assigned to prosecute Salahi. It was supposedly an open and closed case. Salahi’s cousin worked for Osama Bin Laden. Salahi fought with the Taliban against the Russians in Afghanistan. He was a terrorist and murderer who needed to die for his crimes. But as Hollander and Couch prepare for trial, they both uncover a disturbing conspiracy regarding the case. The revelations, along with Salahi’s chilling memory of his arrest and imprisonment, painted a very different picture of the government’s case against him.
The events of September 11, 2001 will never be forgotten. Horror and heartbreak will always be felt, especially for those of us who lost our dear friends and family. The Mauritanian It strikes the heart of a moral and existential dilemma. Should we allow innocent people to be drawn into a ruthless search for justice? Are rendition, imprisonment and torture a necessary means to an end? Nancy Hollander, Teri Duncan and Stuart Couch were branded traitors for seeking the truth behind Salahi’s capture. They should be seen as heroes. The Constitution, the principles that define Americanism, is sacrosanct. This is the message the film conveys.
Tahar Rahim has received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama. Mohamedou Ould Salahi was subjected to gruesome torture and years of crushing confinement. Rahim embodies his struggle to maintain hope in the most dire circumstances. Delivers an incredible, nuanced performance. Propping up The Mauritanian when the narration gets laborious. The film, despite its extraordinary content, seems like an episode of Law sometimes. Tahir Rahim manages to humanize Salahi. Thus, their ordeal is relatable and teachable. The Mauritanian is a Wonder Street, 30 West and BBC Films production. STX Films will release it in theaters on February 12.
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