The Mauritanian is a 2021 legal drama film based on the ostensibly true story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian man who was held for fourteen years (from 2002 to 2016) without charge in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, a United States military prison. The film was directed by Kevin Macdonald based on a screenplay written by M.B. Traven, Rory Haines, and Sohrab Noshirvani, adapted from Slahi's 2015 memoir Guantánamo Diary. It stars Tahar Rahim as Slahi, and also features Jodie Foster, Shailene Woodley, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Zachary Levi in supporting roles.
The Mauritanian was released in the United States on February 12, 2021 by STXfilms. In the United Kingdom, where all cinemas were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the planned cinema release was cancelled and the film was premiered on Amazon Prime Video on April 1, 2021. It received mixed to positive reviews, with critics praising Macdonald's direction, its cinematography and performances of the cast (particularly of Rahim and Foster) but criticised its screenplay. At the 78th Golden Globe Awards the film received two nominations; Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama (for Rahim), with Foster winning Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture. At the 74th British Academy Film Awards the film received five nominations, including Best Film, Outstanding British Film, and Best Actor (for Rahim).
In November 2001, Mohamedou Ould Slahi is in Mauritania, two months after the September 11 attacks. A Mauritanian policeman tells Mohamedou that Americans want to have a talk with him. Mohamedou agrees to go with them.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, in February 2005, lawyer Nancy Hollander is told by French lawyer Emmanuel that a lawyer from Mauritania approached his firm in Paris on behalf of Mohamedou’s family. They haven’t seen Mohamedou since he was arrested three years ago and only just found out in a newspaper that he is being held by the US at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba and is accused of being one of the organizers of 9/11. Emmanuel asks Nancy to look into it because she has a security clearance from a previous case and can ask questions he can’t. Nancy agrees to check.
At a Naval Law Conference in New Orleans, Marine Prosecutor Stuart Couch is told by Colonel Bill Seidel about the Mohamedou case which Seidel wants him to prosecute. Seidel says that Mohamedou fought with Al-Qaeda in the 90s and then recruited for them in Germany, and says it was Mohamedou who recruited the terrorist who flew Stu’s friend’s plane into the tower.
Nancy and Teri (her fellow lawyer) fly down to Guantánamo to meet Mohamedou. Mohamedou agrees to hire them as his lawyers. Meanwhile, Stu tells his team to go through all the intel reports they have to corroborate the story against Mohamedou.
Nancy finds out something through Mohamedou’s letter which she received from him while Stu looks at the MFR (Memorandum for the Record), showing exactly what happened. The letter and reports talk about enhanced torture and treatment including sexual assault upon Mohamedou by the Guantanamo guards as ordered by General Mandel. General Mandel also threatened the arrest and rape of his mother. Thus, to save his mother, Mohamedou gave false confession about being a terrorist.
In December 2009, at trial Mohamedou testified over video link to the court. In March 2010, Mohamedou got a letter informing him that his case was successful, and the judge has ordered him to be released. Text is shown telling us that it would be another 7 years before he actually was released, because the government appealed. His mother died in 2013 so he never saw her again. He was finally released in 2016, having spent 14 years in prison without ever being charged.
Finally, footage of the real Mohamedou arriving back in Mauritania is shown. Texts are shown, telling us Mohamedou lives in Mauritania and got married in 2018 to an American lawyer. They have a baby son, Ahmed, but haven’t been able to live together as a family and are hoping a country will grant them protection and citizenship. Nancy and Teri are still lawyers working against injustice, and we see footage of Mohamedou giving them necklaces with their names in Arabic.
- Tahar Rahim as Mohamedou Ould Slahi
- Jodie Foster as Nancy Hollander
- Shailene Woodley as Teri Duncan
- Benedict Cumberbatch as Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Couch
- Zachary Levi as Neil Buckland
- Saamer Usmani as Arjun
- Corey Johnson as Bill Seidel
- Denis Menochet as Emmanuel
- David Fynn as Kent
- Walter van Dyk as District Court of Columbia Judge
The film was announced in November 2019. Kevin Macdonald signed on as director, with Benedict Cumberbatch, Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim and Shailene Woodley cast to star. In December 2019, Zachary Levi joined the cast of the film.. Filming began on December 2nd, 2019 in South Africa.
The film was originally known as Guantánamo Diary in its early development stages, and as Prisoner 760 during production, before being described as untitled in post-production. In November 2020, the title was revealed to be The Mauritanian.
In August 2020, STX Entertainment acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film. STX International will release the film in the United Kingdom and Ireland and pre-sold the international distribution rights at the American Film Market in November 2019. The film was released in the United States on February 12, 2021 in theaters, with a digital demand release following on March 2, 2021.
As of April 1, 2021, the film had made $835,724 domestically and $2,500,000 internationally, for a global total of $3,335,724.
Released alongside Judas and the Black Messiah, Land with limited expansion of Willy's Wonderland on February 12, 2021. The Mauritanian made $163,789 from 245 theaters, and $179,778 over the four-day President's Day weekend. In its second weekend of release the film made $137,072 from 287 theaters. In its third weekend, the film took in $120,192, a decline of 12.3% from the second. In its fourth weekend, the film made $90,004.
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Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 75% of 209 critic reviews were positive, with an average rating of 6.50/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "The Mauritanian takes a frustratingly generic approach to a real-life story that might have been inspirational in other hands, but Tahar Rahim's performance elevates the uneven material." According to Metacritic, which sampled 30 critics and calculated a weighted average score of 54 out of 100, the film received "mixed or average reviews".
Leaf Arbuthnot, writing for Tatler, described the film as 'excellent', praising in particular the performances of Foster and Rahim as 'impeccable'. The Hindu praised the performances of the cast, specifically of Foster, saying; she elevates the legal drama to a whole new level.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref.|
|AARP Movies for Grownups Award||March 4, 2021||Best Supporting Actress||Jodie Foster||Won|||
|British Academy Film Award||April 11, 2021||Best Film||Adam Ackland, Leah Clarke, Beatriz Levin and Lloyd Levin||Nominated|||
|Outstanding British Film||Kevin Macdonald, Adam Ackland, Leah Clarke, Beatriz Levin, Lloyd Levin, Rory Haines, Sohrab Noshirvani and M. B. Traven||Nominated|
|Best Actor in a Leading Role||Tahar Rahim||Nominated|
|Best Adapted Screenplay||M.B. Traven, Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||Alwin H. Küchler||Nominated|
|Casting Society of America||April 15, 2021||Outstanding Achievement in Casting - Studio or Independent Feature - Drama||Nina Gold, Christa Schamberger (location casting)||Nominated|
|European Film Awards||December 11, 2021||Best Actor||Tahar Rahim||Nominated|||
|Golden Globe Awards||February 28, 2021||Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama||Nominated|||
|Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture||Jodie Foster||Won|
|Heartland Film||Truly Moving Picture Award||Kevin Macdonald||Won|
|London Film Critics' Circle Awards||February 7, 2021||Film of the Year||The Mauritanian||Nominated|||
|Director of the Year||Kevin Macdonald||Nominated|
|Actor of the Year||Tahar Rahim||Nominated|
|Women Film Critics Circle Awards||Best Actor||Nominated|
|Best Female Action Hero||Jodie Foster||Nominated|
- 'The Mauritanian' Is Based On Guantanamo's 'Forever Prisoners' (11 Feb 2021).
# Rose, Steve (26 Mar 2021). 'We don't live in a world of goodies and baddies, do we?' The true story behind The Mauritanian.
# 'I had a lot of offers to play a terrorist or the French boyfriend' (21 Mar 2013).
# Brown, Hannah (6 May 2021). Kevin Macdonald tells the 'Post' about the man behind 'The Mauritanian'.
# Utichi, Joe (11 Jan 2021). Jodie Foster Says 'The Mauritanian' Reflects The Residual Effects Of America's Post-9/11 Transformation.
# 'My characters are drawn to doing the right thing': Jodie Foster on The Mauritanian and 55 years in Hollywood - CBC Radio (2 Mar 2021).
- Warner, Sam. "Benedict Cumberbatch's new movie skips cinemas for Amazon release in the UK", digitalspy, 19 February 2021.
- Kit, Borys (December 27, 2019). Zachary Levi Joins Jodie Foster, Benedict Cumberbatch in Drama 'Prisoner 760' (Exclusive).
- Busch, Anita (April 11, 2016). Benedict Cumberbatch Comes Aboard 'Guantanamo Diary' As Producer.
- D'Alessandro, Anthony. "Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim & Shailene Woodley Board 'Prisoner 760', STX Launching At AFM", Deadline, November 1, 2019.
- D'Alessandro, Anthony (August 3, 2020). Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim & Shailene Woodley Legal Thriller Stateside Rights Go To STX.
- Davis, Clayton (2020-11-23). Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim Make Late Entry Into Awards Race With STX Films' 'The Mauritanian' (EXCLUSIVE) (in en-US).
- The Mauritanian | Official Movie Website | In Theaters Now, On Demand Everywhere March 2 (in en).
- Ramos, Dino-Ray (February 14, 2021). 'The Mauritanian', 'The World To Come' And 'Willy's Wonderland' Enter Specialty Box Office Fray.
- Ramos, Dino-Ray (February 21, 2021). 'Blithe Spirit', 'Silk Road' And 'The Violent Heart' Post To Specialty Box Office Board; 'Promising Young Woman' Crosses $5M.
- The Mauritanian (2021). Fandango Media.
- The Mauritanian Reviews. Red Ventures.
- Arbuthnot, Leaf. "The Mauritanian review: Jodie Foster shines in this excellent Guantanamo procedural", Tatler, 9 April 2021.
- Arbuthnot, Leaf. "'The Mauritanian' movie review: Jodie Foster elevates legal drama to a whole new level", The Hindu, 9 April 2021.
- AARP Movies for Grownups Awards: 'Trial of the Chicago 7,' 'Da 5 Bloods' Lead Nominations (February 8, 2021).
- BAFTA Unveils Film Nominations in Historic Year After Diversity Review: 'Nomadland,' 'Rocks' Lead Nominees (March 9, 2021).
- Roxborough, Scott (November 9, 2021). 'Titane', 'Hand of God' Among European Film Awards Nominees. Retrieved on November 10, 2021.
- Golden Globes 2021: The Complete Nominations List (February 3, 2021).
- Ritman, Alex. "'Saint Maud' Leads London Critics' Circle Film Awards Nominations", The Hollywood Reporter, January 12, 2021.