The Mauritanian (2021) – on digital

The Mauritanian, directed by Kevin MacDonald, brings a legal drama to devastating life on screen from the New York Times acclaimed best-selling memoir Guantánamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who was tortured and detained without charge in Guantánamo for 14 years.

An Extraordinary Rendition

by Alexa Dalby

The Mauritanian

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Tahar Rahim (recently outstanding in The Serpent on British television, and on film in A Prophet, The Past, The Eagle) is superb as the apparently innocent man, suddenly kidnapped from a family wedding in Mauritania and incarcerated and interrogated to extract a confession (that never came) about his Al Qaeda involvement in America’s 9/11. Slahi was never actually charged in the 14 years he was held. Thanks to his attorney Nancy Hollander, a US judge ordered his release in 2010, but he remained imprisoned for another six years. Despite the ambitions of several US Presidents, the facility is still in operation; 40 people are detained there.

Jodie Foster (Silence of the Lambs, Contact, Inside Man) is Nancy Hollander, Slahi’s tenacious defence attorney turned ally, who agrees to force the US government to charge him with something. Though clearly presented as totally genuine in her motives and overriding quest for justice, her role can be perceived as straying into ‘white saviour’ mode, though those involved dispute this.

The film also stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Avenger’s Franchise, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Imitation Game) as the US Colonel, the prosecutor who becomes converted to Slahi’s innocence.

The Mauritanian is directed by Academy Award® winner Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, State of Play, Whitney),

Slahi, who qualified as an engineer in Germany, astonishingly remained good-humoured throughout his lengthy traumatic ordeal of interrogation and torture. Even more astonishingly he survived them with his resilient spirit intact, learning English from his guards, with whom he became friendly. One of them, Steve Wood, remains a close friend; he even converted to Islam. He came to Mauritania to visit Slahi and the reunion is captured in the Guardian short film My Brother’s Keeper.

The Mauritanian has received numerous awards and nominations. It is released on Blu-Ray, DVD, VOD & Digital on 11 May 2021 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment in the UK, with new, exclusive bonus content including an alternative opening, deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes footage with cast and crew.