Movie Review: The Mauritanian

Some movies are intended for consumption; others are intended to consume. The Mauritanian is of the latter sort. It will consume your thoughts long after the movie ends. The issue is torture, and more specifically the use of enhanced interrogation at Guantanamo Bay in the years following 9/11.

I’ve written before about torture, and why it is an issue that requires a more nuanced ethical approach than simple absolutism offers. The Mauritanian takes up the issue of the real life story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a man picked up in North Africa in the months following 9/11 for his alleged association with Osama Bin Ladin. He was taken to Jordan and then to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was held by the U.S. Government for 14 years (through both the Bush and Obama administrations) without charges ever being brought against him.

When I began watching this movie, I fully expected a strong helping of the typical Hollywood hubris combined with twisted facts to support a hard-left premise. What I got was something more honest and penetrating. The Bush and Obama administrations must have both thought Slahi guilty, but if they did, why not indict him and put him to trial? The suggestion offered by the movie is probably accurate: the evidence was merely circumstantial or inadmissible. And without spoiling the movie, I can say that the best evidence against Slahi was certainly and rightly inadmissible.

Another surprise was how fairly the movie treated Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, a Marine Corps lawyer, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Couch is a Christian, and the hard decision he makes as a Christian is a model for all Christians on how to conduct themselves in such circumstances. If they did, Christians would garner the respect of the world, just as Cumberbatch garners the respect of the viewer in this movie. Enough said. I don’t want to ruin the movie for you.

Bottom line: this movie is a must-see. It was as surprising as Nomadland was disappointing, and that is high praise. Watch. Enjoy. And give it some prayerful thought when it is over.

As the kingdom of God expands on the earth and mature Christ-like politicians and military leaders are then making, guided by Truth, the decisions that are currently being made according to political ideology, ask yourself how a situation like the one portrayed in this movie might play out differently. GS

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