“The Mauritanian” (STX)

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in a scene from the movie "The Mauritanian." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS/Graham Bartholomew, STXfilms)

By Catholic News Service

Director Kevin Macdonald’s fact-based film doesn’t adhere to the conventions of a legal drama or a police procedural. Instead, it focuses on the moral implications of the struggle to free a falsely accused prisoner (Tahar Rahim), with brilliant results.

In adapting Mohamedou Ould Salahi’s 2015 memoir “Guantanamo Diary,” screenwriters M.B. Traven, Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani are not shy about including a variety of explicitly religious elements in their script. The Muslim captive must first fortify his will to live, then learn to forgive the months of physical and psychological torture inflicted on him by the U.S. military. For the Christian Army officer (Benedict Cumberbatch) charged with prosecuting him, a moment of awakening comes at a baptism ceremony. And, while expressing no particular faith, his defense attorney (Jodie Foster) experiences a voyage of spiritual discovery as she doggedly fights government efforts to suppress the evidence. The sum of all this is a highly balanced and underplayed narrative that succeeds in building audience outrage without preaching.

Frequent depictions of torture, including brief sexual abuse, fleeting profanities, some crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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