Film The Mauritanian (15)
- Credit: TM Films/SunnyMarch
I'm gonna tell you a story. It's a true story, but it is still a story.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Rahim) is a Mauritanian who gets scooped up in the global dragnet after 9/11 and through a hopscotch of renditions ends up in Guantanamo Bay, accused of being the mastermind behind the attack. Crusading lawyer Foster takes on the Habeus Corpus case to get the government to charge him. Lined up against her is Benedict Cumberbatch's former Marine turned lawyer whose good friend was the pilot of the plane that hit the South Tower and who returns to service to prosecute Slahi.
Following on from The Serpent, Rahim is definitely the star, even though he's chained up for most of the film. Foster is just fine playing a high-minded crusading lawyer, although it's such a comfy fit it hardly counts as acting. But, even with a convincing accent, I don't think we can really take Cumberbatch seriously as a US marine can we? Especially when he's surrounded by various piggy eyed performers who have made a career out of playing seething men in uniform and are now so accomplished you can almost see the steam coming off their heads.
The Mauritanian's moral compass is a very traditional, totally unwavering belief in the Constitution, in truth and justice and traditional storytelling. Kevin Madondald's straight-down-the-line rendering of the standard innocent man in prison story and the brave lawyers standing up against hostile public opinion to seek the truth is worthy, but plodding.
9/11, Al-Qaeda, Bush, Rumsfeld, waterboarding and forced rendition – it all seems like so long ago but its contemporary relevance is real and pressing, as this was an era that sent at least half of America gaga. They've been frantically rewriting their story, and reality, ever since. This though is the same old song. So when the film gives you the scene where the music swells as the defendant eloquently pleads his case and we cut to reaction shots of moved faces in the courtroom, it's natural to resent this tired yank on our chain. The Mauritanian is an honest film but it seems inadequate. It's a dull story we tell ourselves; in opposition to the crazy stories they are telling each other. 2/5 stars
Directed by Kevin Macdonald. Starring Tahar Rahim, Jodie Foster, Shailene Woodley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zachary Levi and Corey Johnson. Running time: 129 mins.
http://www.halfmanhalfcritic.com/ for a review of Godzilla Vs Kong and Studiocanal's Blu-ray release of Catch Us If You Can.