Title – The Mauritanian (2021)
Director – Kevin Macdonald (Touching the Void)
Cast – Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim, Shailene Woodley, Benedict Cumberbatch
Plot – The true story of Guantanamo Bay inmate Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Rahim) who was held captive for numerous years without significant evidence against him and fought for his freedom alongside US based lawyer Nancy Hollander (Foster).
“It doesn’t matter what we believe. What matters is what we can prove”
Review by Eddie on 31/08/2021
Nominated for two Golden Globes and winning one for the performance of its leading lady Jodie Foster, The Mauritanian is a prestigious drama that knows its way around a good story but director Kevin Macdonald’s film never excels in any major facet, meaning whilst always watchable and at times gripping in its telling of a true life tale, this rather generic and forgettable film can’t find its own voice in a marketplace filled with many such trial over adversity legal dramas.
Having not made a truly good film now since 2009’s underappreciated thriller State of Play, that followed on from his best works The Last King of Scotland and the unforgettable Touching the Void documentary, Macdonald finds himself struggling once more to infuse his features with much energy or stand out elements and The Mauritanian really suffers from its restrained delivery that the best efforts of its leading performers can’t help overcome.
In her most fully formed role in some time, Jodie Foster is as solid as you’d expect playing real life American based lawyer Nancy Hollander who found herself working towards freeing Tahar Rahim’s Guantanamo Bay inmate Mohamedou Ould Slahi from his years of imprisonment and torture after American intelligence agencies pinpointed him for involvement in Al-Qaeda activities and dealings with September 11 terrorists, despite a seemingly serious lack of hard evidence against the well-spoken and long-suffering soul.
At its best when Foster and Rahim share the screen (with Rahim finally getting a role worthy of his talents after his breakout A Prophet lead turn), The Mauritanian plods along on its two hour journey and while the injustices committed against Slahi are evident and emotional, the film itself never quite manages to combine all its powerful moments or situations into a white knuckle thriller or a gripping all round drama as Macdonald ticks off a serious of typical political drama features (boxes of evidence delivered to offices, people crying while reading reports) and wastes the supports of Benedict Cumberbath and Shailene Woodley along the way with underwritten and basic side characters.
It’s a shame the film didn’t manage to become more than it is, far from a bad film and telling a story worth being heard, The Mauritanian is a respectable effort from all involved but one that could’ve been more when you compile all the evidence in its favor.
Final Say –
Two strong central turns and a worthy true life tale make The Mauritanian a solid film but there is nothing remarkable about Macdonald’s generic and familiar feature that never stands out from a crowded genre.
3 redacted records out of 5