I have to confess that before I watched this film I had to google as to where Mauritania was. So, for the benefit of those of you who are also unfamiliar with the place, Mauritania is an Islamic country located Northwest of the Africa continent. The Mauritanian is based on a true story about the detention of Mohamedou Salahi, a Mauritanian, by the US in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. He was held for 14 years for suspicion of being involved in the recruitment and preparation of the 9/11 attack but never actually charged due to no evidence. The story is based on the memoirs written by Mohamedou and shares with us the events from his arrest to his release.
With such a powerful and rich material, The Mauritanian comes across as an engrossing and gripping story. It is supported by a stellar cast headed by Jodie Foster as the defense attorney, and Benedict Cumberbatch (sporting a convincing American accent) as the military prosecutor. The name Guantanamo Bay immediate conjures images of a military base where unspeakable torture is inflicted on its prisoners as a dubious method in driving out confessions and secrets from them. Here, the barbaric torture that we are familiar with takes a back seat as much of the story focus on the gallant and professional efforts of his defense lawyer in securing his freedom. In fact, I suspect the Guantanamo Bay prison depicted here could be a watered down version of reality. What we see are spiking clean prison cells, and prison uniforms, and sympathetic prison guards. A bird’s eye view shot of the Guantanamo Bay prison shows it located just beside the magnificent beauty of the ocean waves crashing along the endless beach front. Even the prosecutor is shown to have such a strong sense of duty and fairness.
Nevertheless the grim story does resonant through and we get a good idea of what Mohamedou had to go through in order to get his freedom. He was very well portrayed by Tahar Rahim who showed him as not only a very strongly resilient man but also one with a sense of humour and positivity which probably contributed to him being able to endure the injustice inflicted upon him. This is further supported in the movie’s closing scenes where the real Mohamedou is shown during his release and subsequently in the comfort of home. The real Mohamedou came across looking, sounding and acting very simialr to Tahar Rahim’s performance!
The Mauritanian is an important movie as it shares an uglier side of America that needs to be known. An injustice that is no doubt still happening today.