Linda Cook review: ‘The Mauritanian’ is part courtroom drama, part history, all true

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There’s nothing like a based-on-a-true-story glimpse of history.

“The Mauritanian” is one of those dramas. It depicts just a small piece of the history of Guantanamo Bay, with a focus on the torment of a single detainee, beautifully played by Tahar Rahim.

Rahim is Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the titular character whose ends up being arrested in 2002 because of his contacts with the terrorist group Al-Qaeda. He is accused of being a recruiter for them.

He ends up in prison, where he is subjected to all kinds of physical and mental interrogation techniques.

Attorney Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) is the American attorney who defends Slahi, who is prosecuted by Lt. Col. Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch, delivering a good Southern acne tin a role which, 15 years before, would have gone to Dennis Quaid.)

Kevin Macdonald (“The Last King of Scotland”) directs the film based on a script from Slahi’s memoir “Guantanamo Diary.”

The scenes of interrogation are cringe-worthy and difficult to watch. But Rahim imbues Slahi with strength and determination, which also are reflected in his friendship with an unseen prisoner with whom he has a kind of friendship through a wall.

Foster always is wonderful to watch. She, too, gives her character strength and pent-up frustration while she confronts every obstacle in seeking justice for her client.

It’s nice to see Foster joined by Shailene Woodley (“The Fault in Our Stars”) as her associate who obviously begins to have feelings for the prisoner, while Hollander watches with disapproval.

It wouldn’t be fair to give away the last five minutes of the movie, but they’re among the most compelling in a film that will give new meaning to the word “justice” to many viewers.

3 stars

Running time: Two hours and nine minutes.

Rated: R for foul language, nudity and scenes of torture.

Streaming on Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, Apple TV and Vudu.

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