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The Mauritanian


Eye-opening docudrama about post-911 witch  hunt by US. In Prime and theaters.

The Mauritanian

“Enhanced interrogation techniques” Donald Rumsfeld

In the course of the expertly-told docudrama, The Mauritanian, about a leading detainee at Guantanamo, Mohamedou Ould Stahl (Tahar Rahim), we learn about the post-911 torture techniques used by the US to elicit confessions from suspects without charges, sometimes for as long as 14 years in Mohamedou’s case.

Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) and Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley) defend him against the US for lack of habeas corpus, unthinkable for anyone deserving their basic rights. Director Kevin Macdonald carefully takes us through the disclosure routine, Freedom of Information and all that, at a reasonable pace and without flourish.

The prosecutor, Colonel Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch), having lost a close friend in 911, is hell bent on proving Mohamedou a leader of the tragic skyjacking. Hollander, on the other hand, prefers the facts and to exonerate: “It doesn’t matter what we believe. What matters is what we can prove.”

The courtroom proceedings are not the flamboyant A Few Good Men—they’re about making a case, theatrics aside and facts forward. Jodie Foster deserves her Golden Globe Award for an underplayed and fiercely honest portrayal of a defense that looked to be a loss from the inception:

“When I stand by my client and I insist that he get a fair hearing, I'm not just defending him, I'm defending you and me. The constitution doesn't have an asterisk at the end that says: ‘Terms and conditions apply.’ In a sense, then, she is defending us against the sabotage of freedom, and Teri is our surrogate to witness and judge the righteousness of the attack.

Although I would have liked more courtroom debate, the filmmakers do a noble job of restraining their torture depiction. However, the point in The Mauritanian is well made: the US used reprehensible methods to unsuccessfully wrest information from arguably guilty prisoners. Incarceration without habeas corpus is unconscionable.

The Mauritanian

Director: Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland)

Screenplay: Michael Bronner, et al.

Cast: Jodie Foster( The Silence of the Lambs), Tahar Rahim (A Prophet)

Run Time: 2h 8m

Rating: R

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, is host of WCBE's programs It's Movie Time and Cinema Classics, and the podcasts Back Talk and Double Take. Contact him at johndesando52@gmail.com.