The Mauritanian is a slow procedural drama that at times can be incredibly slow, but this pace feels earned when the shocking developments in the film arrive.
A defense attorney and her associate (Jodie Foster and Shailene Woodley respectively) investigate the case of a suspected 9/11 terrorist imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Throughout their investigation, they uncover a far-reaching conspiracy as they battle against a military prosecutor (Benedict Cumberbatch) to uncover the truth and find justice for the Mauritanian prisoner – Mohamedou Ould Salahi, all based on his memoir Guantanamo Diary. The film deals with issues of law, patriotism, torture and trust.
Flashbacks are used throughout the film, utilising technology through camera quality and aspect ratios to emphasise the time and place to the audience.
The film is viscerally upsetting when it needs to be, and the slow build throughout makes it all the more so. Sequences of torture are brilliantly filmed and the soundscaping and visual editing within the torture scenes are horrifically good. Just when you think it will end it keeps going and going.
It’s a strong cast with Foster, Cumberbatch and Woodley however there is one performance that stands miles ahead of these, coming from lead Tahar Rahim. He is outstanding in all scenes, seething with quiet rage, desperate with emotional guilt. Rahim runs the emotional gamut in the space of the film and blew me away. He’s been nominated 3 times for the role (London Film Critics’ Circle, Golden Globe Awards and British Academy Film Awards) with each one and more being deserved.
A slow burn of a film, its last half is incredibly powerful and you need the quiet build of the first to earn the emotional payoffs. It may be too long for many, but I found it a quietly powerful and engaging film.
The Mauritanian is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video now
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