So much star power should amount to a lot more than what audiences will get out of The Mauritanian. Thank the cinematic gods for Tahar Rahim, however, who is the film’s saving grace, bringing appropriate gravitas to his portrayal of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the title role, around which all the mystery and tension of the story is centered. It is the story of his imprisonment in Guantanamo Bay, his years of torture and interrogation, and his fight to be freed. It is startling how much Rahim looks like his character’s real life counterpart, whose NY Times best-selling memoir, Guantanamo Diary, is the basis for the film.
The actor offers a depth and sensitivity to Slahi, and lights up the screen every time he appears. He seems perfectly suited to the role. For example, over the years of his detention, Slahi added English to the French and Arabic he spoke. If the French Rahim speaks sounds perfectly accented, it’s because he hails from Belfort, France. Though not well-known in the US, Rahim is an award-winning performer, having won, among other things, a César, the French equivalent of the Oscar, for his breakout role in 2009’s Un Prophète.
The Mauritanian flounders in the sort of quagmire that makes the film feel twice as long as it should be, leaves the characters underdeveloped, and leaves underserved the many who remained wrongly imprisoned for years in Guantanamo Bay to whom it is meant to bring attention. It’s the script and the editing that are the problem.
For the entire review go to AWFJ.org HERE.