3 out of 5 stars
Since the atrocities of 9/11, there have been many stories that have come to light about actions taken against those who were suspected of being part of the terrorist actions. Many of the individuals at the centre of these tales have links back to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Due to its secluded nature and secretive usage over the years, the facility has developed an infamous reputation for harbouring less than ethical methods of information gathering and questionable detention methods.
The Mauritanian is based on the memoir Guantánamo Diary written by Mohamedou Ould Salahi (Tahar Rahim). It follows a Mauritius national who was apprehended by the US government after the terrorist actions in New York City because of his indirect ties to Osama Bin Laden. He was eventually transferred to the US-held prison facility even though there were no charges laid against him. No trial had been set for his arraignment. As he tries to communicate with the outside world and plead for justice, Mohamedou manages to get defence attorney Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster). She works with her associate Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley), to do all they can to get their client released from his unwarranted imprisonment.
Their battle against the military and law enforcement begins before they even meet Salahi. The two women must find the documentation that proves him innocent amongst the mountain of fabricated evidence against him. When military prosecutor Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch) takes on the case, they seem to have a formidable opponent before them. Until the prosecuting attorney begins to uncover details and similar inconsistencies with the evidence. This leads both teams to consider managing the press and the American people's judgment as they work to get Salahi released from prison as an innocent man.
This film becomes a tangle of emotional turmoil, miscarried justice and cultural misinformation that proves to be a festering blight on human history. The screenplay never lets up on the anguish experienced by all involved in the sordid story of woe and desperation. Pulled straight from Salahi’s memoir, this becomes an excruciating experience that is impossible to enjoy, even though it is one that needed to be told. As it is brilliantly supported by the strong performances from Foster, Woodley and Cumberbatch, in the end, it is Tahar Rahim’s film from start to finish. He takes on the weight of this complex tale. He manages to embody his true-to-life character over the fourteen years he lived through this hellish existence.
There is no doubt why this has been a darling of the awards season despite its relatively small worldwide distribution. It will suffer from skeptical hearts who will interpret this tale through different views from the attack on America. Yet, The Mauritanian does provide a voice to those who have experienced injustices since those fateful days in history. Coupled with the hope that people can have in the justice system and the human spirit's determination. This film will get people thinking of the value of ethics, mercy, forgiveness and how we need to treat our fellow human beings.
Reel Dialogue: Are we alone on this journey called life?
It is easy to feel isolated in a crowd in this modern society, much less while you rot in a cell in prison carrying the weight of injustice. Isolation can be a physical reality, but for many, it is truly a state of mind. We can seek solace in personal relationships or through technology, but these things do eventually have limited satisfaction.
This profoundly philosophical query can be answered by saying that God is there for us all. Mankind needs to merely turn around and acknowledge His presence. During times of joy or loneliness, God is there for us and provides a relationship unlike any other.
Where do you start? Begin with the first book of the New Testament - Matthew 28:20 - ‘behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’ and then go back to the beginning of the story and introduce yourself the person of Jesus. Matthew