The Mauritanian Movie Review & Summary: Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s Guantánamo Diary

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Video Source – STXfilms (STXfilms YouTube Channel)

The Mauritanian tells the story of a man who was imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp for 14 years without a single charge, on the suspicion of aiding the 9/11 attacks.

The Mauritanian Movie Cast

  • Jodie Foster as Nancy Hollander
  • Tahar Rahim as Mohamedou Ould Slahi
  • Shailene Woodley as Teri Duncan
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch
  • Zachary Levi as Neil Buckland
  • Saamer Usmani as Arjun

The Mauritanian Movie Plot

The movie begins with Mohamedou walking on the beach in his home country of Mauritania and a line appears on the screen stating, “This is a true story”.

Mohamedou (Tahar Rahim) is taken by the Mauritanian police for questioning and he does not come back as it is revealed that he was taken as prisoner in Guantanamo Bay. Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) and Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley) agree to defend Mohamedou and they meet him in Guantanoma Bay where he agrees to hire them as his lawyers.

Marine Prosecutor Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch) is given the handle as the lead prosecutor for Mohamedou.

Through Mohamedou’s letters send to Nancy and Teri and through Memorandum for the record (MFR) read by Stuart, they find out about the infamous Enhanced Interrogation techniques used on Mohamedou which includes threats, assault, waterboarding, sexual molestation, many other techniques along with threating of his mother being arrested and raped, which leads to Mohamedou giving false confession about him being a recruiter in the 9/11 attacks.

Upon learning the truth, Stuart leaves the case and Nancy suggests Mohamedou to write a book about his brutal experience in Guantanamo Bay for the world to know. In December 2009, his trial is held where he testifies through video from his prison and in March 2010, he finds out that he won the case and court has ordered his release.

Line appears on the screen stating that doesn’t leave the prison for another 7 years as the government appealed against his verdict. In 2016, after spending 14 years and 2 months in Guantanamo Bay detention camp, he is released without ever having a charge against him.

In the end, real Mohamedou is shown back in Mauritania where he came back after his release but could not see his mother as she passed away in 2013, while he was still in prison.

Mohamedou is now married and has a kid but could not be united and live with his family due to visa issues and they are hoping for a country to grant them protection and citizenship.  

The Mauritanian Movie Review

The Mauritanian Movie Review

The Mauritanian is a movie that was set out to tell a story, a story of Mohamedou’s inhumane treatment and torture that he had to go through in Guantanamo Bay and the movie tells that story successfully.

The movie follows the journey of Mohamedou, the enhanced interrogation that he goes through just covers the minor segment in the movie but at the ends it becomes the main focus.

Tahar Rahim who has mainly appeared in French films and recently know for his work in the Netflix and BBC series ‘The Serpent’ takes the centre stage in the movie. The very beginning of the movie when he is in Mauritania, Tahar presents Mohamedou as a charming guy which seemed a bit homogenous with his display of Charles Sohbraj in The Serpent.

It makes you wonder about his range, if not seen his other works but not long after that his performance becomes captivating and immersive and he displays the various emotions of fear and hopelessness to joy and forgiveness. The optimistic belief that he will be set free and eventual realisation that he is trapped can be seen very well in Tahar’s face. Jodie Foster’s performance as Nancy amplifies the storytelling in the film. 

It seems that the film’s main goal is to publicize the cruel treatment of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and it achieves it goal in doing so. The acting in the film is splendid and no one misses their mark as everyone appear to fit right into their spots.

The story is important and the storytelling is good, the film does put a spotlight on the injustice but it stills fails to have a deeper impact on the viewer. The audience might feel sympathetic towards Mohamedou but still might fail to realize the extend of his trauma due to the straight and generalized approach of his memoir. 

The film sets a backdrop of Mauritania and its culture in few scenes which is fascinating to someone who is unknown to those customs and traditions. A look into the life of a person who comes from a different part of the world, which is unlike something that one might have seen is riveting and generates the appeal.

The change in the aspect ratio and the eerie theme which is used to present the past experiences that Mohamedou goes through, also intensifies the narrative of the film.

The Mauritanian Movie Critical Reception

Rotten Tomatoes reports that 73% of 192 critic reviews were positive, with an average rating of 6.50/10. The website’s critics consensus reads: “The Mauritanian takes a frustratingly generic approach to a real-life story that might have been inspirational in other hands, but Tahar Rahim’s performance elevates the uneven material.”

According to Metacritic, which sampled 30 critics and calculated a weighted average score of 54 out of 100, the film received “mixed or average reviews”.

The Movie Culture Synopsis

The Mauritanian is movie that told me a story of a person that I might have never known. Even though I knew about Guantanamo Bay and about the enhanced interrogation techniques that were used after 9/11 attacks, it is still very gut-wrenching to hear through the first-hand experience.

Guantanamo Bay detention camp, also known as ‘GITMO’ is infamous for the mistreatment and the torture of its prisoners. The American government was desperate to prosecute the terrorist behind 9/11 and the CIA took such violent measures but that still isn’t justified as many of those accused were and still are innocent, arrested just on suspicion.

The Mauritanian is similar to the 2019 political thriller ‘The Report’ starring Adam Driver and Annette Bening which follows the FBI agent Daniel Jones and his investigation into the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques on suspected terrorist.