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Mauritanian, The


Stars: Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim, Shailene Woodley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Corey Johnson, Adam Neil, Zachary Levi

Director: Kevin Macdonald

Tough-to-watch chronicle of a monstrous miscarriage of justice that resulted in an innocent man being detained at America's notorious Guantanamo Bay 'facility' (prison camp) for 14 years.

Simply on the strength of a phone call from a known terrorist, whom he put up for the night, Mohamedou 'Mo' Slahi (Rahim) finds himself taken by police from his home in Mauritania (part of Algeria and Morocco), jailed in Jordan, and hence transferred by US military to Guantanemo in Cuba, where he is accused of being a key operative in the 9/11 atrocities, and soon the object of relentless questioning.

He persists in his innocence, but his interrogators eventually hand him over to the military, who subject him to an intense, months-long campaign of torture, threaten to bring his mother to the camp as an internee, and finally extract a fake confession.

This document eventually comes to the attention of his dismayed lawyer (Foster), whose co-counsel (Woodley) quits cold at the sight of it. Foster, however, stays on the case, and is determined to see the hidden memos that held detailed accounts of the torture procedure, as is the prosecuting counsel (Cumberbatch with a thick American accent) who, originally obsessed with obtaining a conviction and the death penalty, becomes increasingly concerned about the validity of the (non-existant) charges.

Performances are sturdy throughout this somewhat overlong film, but you'd be wise to have a stiff brandy on hand for its intense and graphic torture scenes.

On most digital platforms from 22 March

David Quinlan

USA/UK/South Africa 2020. UK Distributor: STX International. Colour (unspecified).
129 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 19 Mar 2021