The Mauritanian Review

The Mauritanian poster starring Tahar Rahim

The Mauritanian is a legal drama film following the case of a suspected 9/11 terrorist imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay starring Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim, Shailene Woodley and Benedict Cumberbatch. The film was released on 1st April 2021 in the UK and is exclusive to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

The Mauritanian is the incredible true story of Mohamedou Ould Salahi, a Mauritanian national, who is captured by the U.S. government and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, without charge or trial. Mohamedou is one of the suspected major terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks and the film follows Mohamedou as he allies with defence attorneys to try and free his name. The film is inspired by the 2015 memoir Guantanamo Diary, written by Mohamedou Ould Salahi.

Tahar Rahim plays lead character Mohamedou Ould Salahi with Jodie foster playing his defense attorney, Nancy Hollander. The performances of both Tahar Rahim and Nancy Hollander are absolutely fantastic and both actors deserve a huge amount of praise. Tahar Rahim invokes one of the most emotional performances of any film in recent memory. His character is so captivating and likeable, that even in the moments in the film where you question whether in fact Mohamedou is guilty or not, you want to believe that he is innocent.

Likewise, Jodie Foster’s performance as Nancy Hollander is equally as infatuating, as she plays a professional and methodical defence attorney. Again, her character is highly likeable and feels so genuine. There is a lovely moment at the end of the film where we see real life footage of Mohamedou Ould Salahi and Nancy Hollander and the visual similarities between the two and their on-screen counterparts is remarkable. A huge amount of credit must go to the production company in creating a phenomenal striking likeness.

The supporting characters, Teri Duncan played by Shailene Woodley and Stuart Couch played by Benedict Cumberbatch, are brilliant too. I was a bit surprised with Benedict Cumberbatch’s casting for the role, however his performance and American accent are faultless. It’s fascinating to watch each character’s moral battles unravel over the course of the film, with Nancy, Teri and Stuart all having contrasting feelings of whether they believe if Mohamedou is guilty or not. I found myself having similar feelings as I watched the film and I was really impressed with how these feelings were translated on-screen through the performances of each actor. 

The film also offers an eye-opening insight into Guantanamo Bay, as well the legal structure surrounding Mohamedou’s case. The conditions and measures enforced at Guantanamo Bay were truly astounding and certainly offered food for thought with regards to how many other prisoners have faced similar circumstances to Mohamedou. With most true stories turned into films, it’s best to take everything with a pinch of salt to account for dramatisation, but I feel as though The Mauritanian offers an accurate representation of what actually happened and ultimately doesn’t leave too much for the imagination.

The film does suffer from a bit of a slow pace, but this is predominantly due to the nature of the story and the constant addition of new obstacles faced by the legal team in the pursuit for Mohamedou’s justice. The case is fascinating and the complications and controversy surrounding it is absolutely shocking, particularly when you consider that it is all true! Given there were so many twists and turns in the case, I was disappointed that the actual court scene lasted no more than five minutes. Regardless, I was still so engaged in the complexity of this case that it has inspired me to read Mohamedou’s memoir!

The Verdict

The Mauritanian is an eye-opening insight into a harrowing true story of injustice and resilience. With some outstanding, tear-jerking acting performances, it is a film not to be missed.

Rating: 8 out of 10.


The Mauritanian is currently available to watch on Prime Video in the UK. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial of Prime Video here (as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases).

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