A Few Bad Men—and More

'The Mauritanian’ is a gripping Guantánamo drama, but it lets military officials off the hook

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The Mauritanian, now streaming on Amazon Prime, is a moving cinematic drama based on Guantánamo Diary, the best-selling 2015 memoir by former prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi. The saga traces his rendition from his West African homeland to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where he was brutally tortured and detained without charge for 14 years as a suspect in the post-9/11 “war on terror.”

Directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, 2006), the movie features strong performances by Tahar Rahim, as Slahi, and Jodie Foster, who inhabits the role of tough-as-nails defense lawyer, Nancy Hollander, with her associate, Teri Duncan, played by Shailene Woodley. Slahi’s defense team forms an improbable alliance with prosecutor Lt. Col. Stu Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch), who  provokes an uproar by withdrawing from the case after discovering that the defendant was tortured.  

The U.S. government’s attempt to prosecute Slahi effectively collapsed altogether in 2010, but it took another six years of wran…

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