The Dallas Movie Screening Group

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Thursday, February 18, 2021

The Mauritanian

Director: Kevin Macdonald

Studio: STX Films

Review: The Mauritanian


If you must know this, September 11th, 2001 will be always remembered in history books, films, and seared into the memories of those who were there or watched the horrifying events being unfold on both television and paper at home and school. This film is heavily based on the New York Times best-selling memoir Guantánamo Diary, written by the actual Mohamedou Ould Salahi, a true story of Salahi's experience of being held for fourteen years without charge in Guantanamo Bay detention camp. This is the story about one's own life and experiences that can deeply discover the explosive true story about fighting for survival against all odds. Director Kevin Macdonald offers a stunning twist of delight that takes the audience to the new levels of survival and justice. The Mauritanian features the stars of Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim, Shailene Woodley, and Benedict Cumberatch in their leading roles in their separate story acts.

The Mauritanian focuses on a prisoner named Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim), who was captured by the U.S. Government, languishes in prison for years without charge or trial. Losing all hope, Slahi finds allies in defense attorney Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) and her associate Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley). Together they face countless obstacles in a desperate pursuit for justice. Their controversial advocacy, along with evidence uncovered by formidable military prosecutor, Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch), eventually reveals a shocking and far reaching conspiracy.

Actor Tahar Rahim (2009’s A Prophet) plays as Mohamedou Ould Slahi (or Salahi for that pronunciation), a prisoner who is held in custody at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp while two-time Oscar-winner Jodie Foster (1988’s The Accused, The Silence of the Lambs) takes on the meatier role as Nancy Hollander, an American defense attorney who will do whatever it takes to defend Slahi. Actress Shailene Woodley (The Divergent Series, ABC’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager) stands in for Jodie Foster's side as her ailing partner Teri Duncan. While in separate scenes, English actor Benedict Cumberbatch (MCU’s Doctor Strange, BBC’s Sherlock) also appears as Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch, a well-respected military prosecutor.

Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald (1999’s One Day in September) and his co-writing teams of Michael Bronner, Rory Haines, and Sohrab Noshirvani have really brought the audience the story and the cinematic elements of how the film takes heavier influences on any books and stories being told by real-life artists. By putting these down on a nice, separate storylines, Macdonald has the camera and cinematography crews to film separate parts and scenes at each location settings in order to accommodate easier methods on how the plot is manageable to flow (and to follow) for the audiences to handle. This is where the director draws attention on what could be an interesting historical/courtroom drama film compared to To Kill A Mockingbird, The Accused (also featuring Jodie Foster), and Macdonald’s own One Day in September with the latter being utilized from his directing experience in that film for a perfect example and inspiration.

The cast did a great job of keeping in character as foretold by the director entirely. Their performances seem to hit the mark on every scene in a different direction, especially Foster and Rahim who are what makes the film pleasant and easier to digest when it all comes down to hero journeys and win-win scenarios without confusing the viewers. Even the performances coming from Woodley and Cumberbatch nailed it down perfectly despite being filmed in their separate locations and rooms for a more focal attention on each of the characters.

Though they’re some downsides that decrease the levels of enthusiasm for the film. The main problem of the film is that there are multiple scenic pieces and characters being placed separately on the first half and throughout that are just too much to see all in one film altogether. Also, the dark images given for the Slahi character that got much tortures and bruises that really left my ways of viewing completely horrendous and easily terrified. The film felt like the director and his crew overdid the special effects rather than focusing on the characters’ development as part of the R-Rated strategies on crafting a political or courtroom drama feature film.

Also appearing in the film is Zachery Levi (Shazam!, Tangled) who portrays Neil whom Stuart Couch met while finding evidence about Slahi.

Over the top, The Mauritanian is alright, but less exciting to say the least. It clocks over two hours, including mid-credits scenes involving the actual people the cast are playing in the film. Rahim and Foster really fit the bill. I have no issues or complaints with this film being called “agenda films” for the sake of the genre, and it seems as if the director Macdonald is setting the boundaries out in order to make this fine masterpiece. I enjoyed almost everything, but I can’t give a higher grade than this as I wouldn't know whether this film would be a hit or miss, but it felt like this movie would be a missed opportunity after the next rounds of films being offered at this time of year.

GRADE: C+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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