‘The Mauritanian’ Is A Tragic Story With A Silver Lining
Movie Review

‘The Mauritanian’ Is A Tragic Story With A Silver Lining

Playing in theatres >>
By Delnaz Divecha8 April, 2021 3 min read
‘The Mauritanian’ Is A Tragic Story With A Silver Lining

Tahar Rahim was the man everyone was taking about at the start of this year’s awards season. His performance in Kevin Macdonald‘s crime drama ‘The Mauritanian‘ was well appreciated by international critics when the film released on Amazon Prime in the US. It now hits theatres in India and we can finally see what earned him and his co-star Jodie Foster their Golden Globe nominations. Winning the award for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, Foster essays the role of defense attorney Nancy Hollander who decides to fight for the prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center without charges. The case of Mohamedou Ould Slahi catches her attention and along with her associate Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley), they begin to pursue justice. At Guantanamo Bay, they meet Slahi (Rahim) and begin to explore his story. Several accounts of torture and a false confession are brought to light, which gives the defense attorneys enough to take the case to the Supreme Court. There are obstacles in their way along with fabricated evidence that could potentially harm Slahi’s case. The initial prosecutor on the case Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch) is confident of a win, until his conscience enables him to uncover a much bigger conspiracy.

A heartbreaking story that offers hope 

The movie does not follow a linear narrative and we see Slahi’s life unfold through many flashbacks. From his arrest in Mauritania to his detention at Guantanamo Bay, including the torture he faced during the investigations – everything is laid out bare in a non-dramatic fashion. What’s interesting to see is Slahi’s relationship with the guards, his respect for the people who hold him captive, and his bond with another inmate. The film does not resort to torture porn but shows us exactly the ordeal he went through during his false imprisonment. The credits scene also gives us a glimpse at the real Slahi and his life following his release, which are some of the most heart-warming moments in this otherwise bittersweet film.

Tahar Rahim’s stellar performance stands out 

We cannot think of anyone other than Tahar Rahim who could have portrayed Slahi’s cheerful and generally positive energy with the same spirit. Rahim has an infectious smile that draws you in right at the beginning and your heart is with him wherever he goes. There is no doubt that he is a great actor (having recently played the negative role of Charles Sobhraj in the newly released Netflix series ‘The Serpent’) and he clearly stands out in this cast of exceptionally talented actors. Jodie Foster dons the ‘attorney’ coat with the kind of tenacity you will expect out of a high-level law executive. Shailene Woodley, on the other hand, brings a softer emotional touch to the defense duo. Benedict Cumberbatch undoubtedly plays one of the best characters in the film, a role that is cherry-picked for a much-loved actor such as him.

Exposes the real and ugly side of ‘Amreeka’

If you have watched ‘The Report’ (streaming on Amazon Prime Video), you may be aware of America’s human rights atrocities on its unlawfully detained prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. We recommend you watch that film before or after The Mauritanian to uncover the conspiracy by the big bully in red, white and blue. You will definitely see a different side to the US than how it has been portrayed in the media as the land of the free or the purveyor of justice. Movies like The Mauritanian expose America’s barely-hidden secrets and give us a better outlook on western nations and how they influence politics globally.


The Mauritanian definitely deserves a watch for its realistic portrayal of America’s war crimes, the cast’s stunning performances, and the silver lining it offers amidst a tragic story. Slahi’s life journey is heartbreaking but his charisma is uplifting. If there’s a movie worth going out in the middle of a pandemic for, it’s this one.

Delnaz Divecha
Written by

Delnaz Divecha

Writer. Editor. Critic.

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