'The Mauritanian' Suggests That America Went Too Far at Guantanamo

The Mauritanian Tahar Rahim
Tahar Rahim plays real-life Guantanamo detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi in "The Mauritanian." (STX)

Oscar-winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald looks at the dark side of the war on terror, a new military legal thriller now set for release in February 2021.

The movie is based on the real-life story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian citizen arrested after 9/11 for alleged terror connections. Tahar Rahim ("The Looming Tower") plays the title role, and Jodie Foster and Shailene Woodley star as the defense attorneys who represent him as he waits to be charged.

Check out the trailer below.

Benedict Cumberbatch attempts a Southern accent as military prosecutor Lt. Col. Stuart Couch. At first, he's all in on the mission, but the trailer suggests that he begins to have doubts about the case (or lack thereof).

The movie is based on Slahi's memoir "Guantanamo Diary," first published in heavily redacted form before he was released in 2016. A revised, mostly unredacted version was published in 2017.

Macdonald won his Oscar for directing the great documentary "One Day in September," about the terrorist attacks at the 1972 Munich Olympics. His previous fiction feature films include "The Last King of Scotland," which featured an Oscar-winning performance by Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin. He also made the excellent Nazi gold heist movie "Black Sea" with Jude Law.

Related: 'Black Sea' Director Kevin McDonald's Submarine Thriller

The movie purports to reveal a "shocking and far reaching conspiracy." Since Slahi gets released at the end, it's safe to assume that the conspirators aren't the terrorists.

For anyone who thinks the USA can do no wrong, the very existence of a movie like this is wrong. For others, it matters if the Slahi story is true but also an outlier because the act of telling it tars all the other prosecutions that weren't unjust.

And then there's the motivation of people who make movies like this one, the idea that we cannot maintain our ideals unless we deal directly with our failures. "The Mauritanian" looks to be heading straight for those very deep waters.

We'll have to wait until February to find out whether the movie tells the story in all its conflicted shades of gray or simplifies a difficult tale to a black-and-white morality tale.

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