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The Mauritanian

The Mauritanian

2021

Captured by the U.S. Government, Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim) languishes in prison for years without charge or trial. Losing all hope, Slahi finds allies in defense attorney Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) and her associate Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley). Together they face countless obstacles in a desperate pursuit for justice. Their controversial advocacy, along with evidence uncovered by formidable military prosecutor, Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch), eventually reveals a shocking and far reaching conspiracy. Based on the New York Times best-selling memoir, this is the explosive true story of a fight for survival against all odds.

Runtime: 129 min

Box Office: $8M

Language:

Directors:

Genres:

Ratings:

Metacritic

53

Metascore

7.2

User Score

Metacritic
review

75%

TOMATOMETER

review

84%

User Score

Metacritic

7.4 /10

IMDb Rating

Check out what happened in The Mauritanian!

A title card reminds us this is a true story. We open with Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim) walking on a beach in Mauritania (northwest Africa) in November 2001, two months after 9/11. We see him attending a family wedding with dancing and singing. His friends talk to him about Germany, where he lives when a man takes him aside and whispers something worrying in his ear. He goes outside to where a Mauritanian policeman is waiting and tells him that for the last time, he has no idea where his cousin Mahfouz is. The policeman tells Mohamedou that since 9/11, the Americans are going crazy, and they want to talk with him. Mohamedou agrees to go with them but asks to change out of his traditional robes first. When he does, he also quickly erases all the contacts on his (very early-2000s) cell phone. He asks if he can drive himself to the station, and the policeman agrees. Mohamedou’s mother is distraught, but he reassures her that they wouldn’t let him take his own car if he wasn’t coming back.

We cut to Albuquerque, NM, in February 2005. High-powered lawyer Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) steps in the back of a courtroom during a hearing and sits behind Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley), and asks for a copy of her case file for something involving airlines. Teri seems excited that Nancy might join the case, but Nancy doesn’t seem convinced by it. Later, she meets a French lawyer, Emmanuel (Denis Menochet), for lunch, and he tells her that a lawyer from Mauritania approached his firm in Paris on behalf of Mohamedou’s family. They haven’t seen Mohamedou since he was arrested three years ago and only just found out in a newspaper that he is being held by the US at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and is accused of being one of the organizers of 9/11. Emmanuel asks Nancy to look into it because she has security clearance from a previous case and can ask questions he can’t. Nancy agrees to check but can’t get a straight answer on the phone as to whether or not Mohamedou is at “Gitmo,” as Guantanamo Bay is called. This piques her interest, and she tells her colleagues at a meeting that she wants to take the case on pro bono. They are incredulous that she wants to represent the “head recruiter for 9/11,” but she reminds them they agreed they could choose their own pro bono work, and she’s only telling them as a courtesy. She’s motivated by the recent policies that then-President George W. Bush and his Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld have put in place in the name of combating terrorism, but which are actually eroding the due process of law. It will only be her working on the case, plus someone to translate. She asks Teri if she speaks French, and Teri says yes, but she’s already on the airline case. Nancy dismisses that case as unwinnable, and Teri agrees to come.

We then see a bunch of military men at a Naval Law Conference in New Orleans. Marine Prosecutor Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch) is recognized and called aside by Colonel Bill Seidel (Corey Johnson), who asks to talk to him about a new case. They meet with some other officials, and Seidel tells Stu that he’s been tasked with setting up a war court to prosecute the enemy combatants held at Gitmo who are suspected of being involved in 9/11. They say that this administration wants “rough justice” and that they need to start clearing the backlog of cases so they can work their way up to Bin Laden. One official mentions that he heard Stu was friends with someone who died on 9/11, and Stu talks about Bruce Taylor, who was a co-pilot on the plane that hit the South Tower. They were friends from the Marines, and their wives worked together. Seidel tells Stu the case they want him to prosecute is Mohamedou, who they say fought with Al-Qaida in the 90s and then recruited for them in Germany, and says it was Mohamedou who recruited the terrorist who flew Stu’s friend’s plane into the tower. This will be the first death-penalty case of the court. Stu asks when to start.

Nancy and Teri fly down to Guantanamo to meet Mohamedou. On the bus from the airport, they are told they are outside the legal jurisdiction of the US and can be removed from the island for any infraction. They stop to get food for their client, and Nancy suggests getting him a Filet-o-Fish. When they get to the prison, they have to pass through multiple security checkpoints where guards repeatedly suggest their client could be dangerous and violent. They are each given a notepad and a pen; any notes they take will have to be left there and then picked up later at a secure facility in the States. They are brought to a room with a table to meet Mohamedou, whose feet are shackled to the floor. They will be monitored by video, but not audio. Mohamedou stands and shakes both their hands and pulls them into hugs, which unnerves them. Teri starts to speak French to him, but Mohamedou surprises them by speaking English, saying he learned just like them, “one word at a time.” Nancy explains they are there because they wish to represent him, and Teri gives him the food they brought, which he sniffs and seems disgusted by. He seems reluctant to trust them, even though Nancy makes clear they are not in any way related to the US government. She explains that the Supreme Court ruled that the detainees of Guantanamo have the right to habeas corpus: basically, the government needs to prove they have the evidence against them in order to keep them prisoner. Otherwise, they have to release them. Mohamedou asks how they can defend him when he hasn’t even been charged with anything in 3 years. He says he was kidnapped and taken to a prison in Jordan and then Afghanistan before being brought here in chains and that he is interrogated 18 hours a day. He says it’s like, “Ask Charlie Sheen to name all his girlfriends.” The lawyers are bemused that he knows pop culture, and he says that since he’s started cooperating, he is allowed to watch TV, specifically “E Exclamation.” Teri suggests the exclamation point is silent. He says the only evidence they’ve shown him is that he once answered a call from Bin Laden’s satellite phone (which shocks the lawyers) but that it was his cousin, and he didn’t know what phone it was. He is afraid to talk to them in case the guards are listening, so Nancy suggests he write it down, and if he hires them, anything he writes to them will be protected by the attorney-client privilege. Mohamedou agrees to hire them as his lawyers and asks them to call a number he gives them, saying it is his mother and to tell her something nice. As they go, he says, “See you later, alligators,” and tells them they’re supposed to answer, “In a while, crocodile.” After they leave and their notes are taken, Teri tries memorizing the number, but Nancy says they don’t even know if that is his mother’s, and they have to be careful. She tells the soldier they give the notes to that they never want to see their client in shackles again.

We then see Stu going over the information they have about Mohamedou with his team. He got a scholarship to study engineering in Germany in ’88, and two years later went to Afghanistan and joined Al-Qaida. They talk about his cousin, Mahfouz, who was named Bin Laden’s spiritual advisor, and another man, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who is called the 20th hijacker (but didn’t take part in 9/11) and who says Mohamedou recruited him and other hijackers in Germany. Stu’s coworker says Mohamedou is the “Al-Qaida Forrest Gump” in that he seems to be involved in all the important moments. Stu tells his team to go through all the intel reports they have to corroborate the story against Mohamedou and that they have to be exacting and thorough because otherwise, he might get away with it.

We see Teri on the phone talking to Mohamedou’s mother through a translator, with the mother crying in the background. When she meets up with Nancy in her office, Nancy says Mohamedou would have wanted them to hear that because mothers all think their sons are innocent, but that they need to focus on proving that the government lacks sufficient evidence to hold him and not get distracted by emotions. They go to a secure facility in Virginia which is where they can read the notes they take at Guantanamo and any other classified material. The guy that works there, Kent (David Fynn), explains that anything they want to take back to the office or use in court has to be read and cleared by him or another member of the Privilege Team, but that they are not allowed to share anything with the prosecution. He tries joking around with them, but they want to get to business. Teri is shocked that the government has withheld all the case files, but Nancy says she’s filed a Freedom of Information request and to just focus on Mohamedou’s testimony for now. We see Mohamedou writing to them and sealing his letters in envelopes with tape to prove they haven’t been tampered with, then Nancy and Teri reading what he’s written at the secure facility.

We flashback to Mohamedou arriving at Gitmo, 2002. He is being shouted at by guards while his head is in a black hood. He is strip-searched, his head is shaved, he is roughly scrubbed down, and given a wrist tag with his photo on it. They dress him and take him to his cell, where he has to stand with his back to the door, so they can hold him by his chains through a window until the door is closed and they unlock them. His cell is small with no window; it has a bed, sink, and toilet, and he is provided with some toiletries, a Qu’ran, and a prayer rug. He lies on the bed and thinks of traveling across the desert with his father when he was young. The next morning he is roughly awoken and taken to an interrogation room where he meets two interrogators from the US government (Adam Rothenberg and Stevel Marc) and an Arabic translator. The interrogators tell him they will not hurt him (“that shit don’t fly no more”), but they need him to answer their questions. Mohamedou freaks them out a little by correctly guessing he’s in Cuba, but the tone is generally relaxed and pretty friendly. They ask about his father, a camel trader who died when Mohamedou was 9, and he tells them a story about how his father never wanted to ride in a car but tried once and only lasted a few seconds. They then skip ahead and ask about him joining Al-Qaida in the 90s. We flashback to Mohamedou there learning to use a machine gun.

We cut to Stu and his family at church. As he leaves, he spots his friend Bruce’s widow and takes her aside to tell her he’s prosecuting a 9/11 case and says he’s gonna make him pay. The widow thanks him and says God is on his side. We then see Mohamedou at Gitmo in an outside cell, trying to peek through the fence and praying. He hears another prisoner being put into the cell next to him and talks to him in Arabic. The other prisoner seems depressed about their situation, but Mohamedou jokes around and asks his name. The prisoner says his number is 241, but Mohamedou doesn’t want to call him a number, so the guy tells him he is from Marseille (they have switched to speaking in French). Mohamedou calls the prisoner Marseille, and he calls Mohamedou Mauritanian. Marseille says Mohamedou should learn English so he can listen to the guards.

We return to the present, where Nancy interrupts Emmanuel at a restaurant because he’s been avoiding her. He’s mad at her, but she says he owes her a favor since she took Mohamedou’s case and got the family off his back. She wants him to check with his connections in France to verify Mohamedou’s story about Marseille since that will help prove he is being truthful. Meanwhile, Stu’s team finds out Nancy is representing Mohamedou, and Stu looks her up, finding out she’s been fighting the government since the Vietnam War. One of Stu’s colleagues tells him the case files he’s reading are confusing, and Stu says intel files are always contradictory and muddled, but you have to organize them by date and sort them out. The colleague says that’s the point: Mohamedou’s interrogators didn’t put any dates on the files. The other lawyers think asking the CIA for help clarifying won’t work since they consider the intel still active, but Stu sees that an old friend of his, Neil Buckland, signed off on a lot of the reports. He meets Neil (Zachary Levi) at a bar, and they chat about their families before Stu asks if Neil can tell him anything about Mohamedou’s case files. Neil is doubtful, saying Gitmo was churning out MFRs, and Stu asks what those are. Neil explains that what Stu is reading in his case files are the intelligence reports that summarize what was said and done, but the MFRs (Memorandum for the Record) are the notes of what actually happened in real-time. Stu wants to see them, but Neil says they are classified, and anyway, everyone saw what they did on TV (aka 9/11).

Mohamedou sends Nancy and Teri more letters, writing “The real Charlie Sheen” on the underside of the tape so Nancy can be sure they aren’t tampered with. Kent at the Privilege team reads them through, redacting and blacking out some parts but generally enjoying them, then faxes them to Nancy’s office, where Nancy and Teri are working in a room whose windows they’ve covered with notepaper to make it secure. We cut back to Mohamedou’s initial interrogation, where he explains to his interrogators that he’s never met, Bin Laden. They say they know he got a call from his cousin on Bin Laden’s phone and right after his cousin sent him money, but Mohamedou says it was because the cousin’s father was sick and the money was for hospital bills, but that he has no proof because they brought him there naked. We cut to another interrogation a few months later, where they confront Mohamedou with a picture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, the 20th hijacker. Mohamedou denies knowing him at all, then admits he met him one time. The interrogators are getting frustrated with him, saying they interrogated al-Shibh, and he said Mohamedou recruited him and other terrorists and let them stay with him in Germany. Mohamedou denies it and says he was a friend of a friend who stayed with him for one night like lots of people did. The interrogators say he’s going to have to do better to prove it, otherwise, they’ll believe al-Shibh. The translator tries telling Mohamedou to just tell them what they want to hear, but Mohamedou gets angry at him for telling him what to do.

Later, Mohamedou is in the outside cell again, looking at an iguana under the fence. He hears Marseille, and they chat and joke. Marseille tosses a soccer ball over the fence, saying his captors gave it to him because he told them a name. Mohamedou is dismayed that this will mean someone else will suffer like they are until Marseille tells him the name was Omar Sharif (the famous Egyptian actor) and laughs that Americans don’t know anything that isn’t American. Mohamedou plays with the ball, and it reminds him of playing with friends on the beach when he was a teen. We see him go home to find his whole family waiting, and his mother tells him he’s won the scholarship to Germany. He sees his mother is sad and says he won’t go if she doesn’t want him to, but the elders say this is his opportunity and he is their hope.

It is now October 2005, and Nancy and Teri enter the secure facility to find boxes and boxes of files because the government has complied with the Freedom of Information request. However, when they open them, they find that every line of every file has been redacted and blacked out. Meanwhile, Stu is looking through those same files (unredacted) at his office when Colonel Seidel comes in to tell him the government is going to ask them to set a trial date soon. Stu says there’s too much still to look through and corroborate, and Seidel says they have tons of evidence and that if they don’t set a date soon, it will be set for them. Stu goes over to Neil’s house for a football game and talks to him alone in the kitchen. Neil again says he can’t tell him anything classified and can’t get the MFRs, but Stu says if he doesn’t find something that definitively proves what Mohamedou said, he will go free. Neil suggests Stu go down to Gitmo himself and talk to the man in charge, General Mandel.

We see Nancy and Teri meeting with Mohamedou again. They’ve brought him tea made to his mother’s recipe and news about his family. Nancy reassures him that they’ve gotten his letters and they weren’t tampered with and asks him to keep writing, especially since the government isn’t sharing their evidence. Mohamedou says it’s because they don’t have any and shyly asks if they think his letters are good. They agree he’s a good writer, and Teri mentions that even the Privilege Team loves reading them. Mohamedou freaks out that someone else has been reading his words, but they calm him down and ask his approval to sue the government for access to their files. Mohamedou is upset because he thinks it means they don’t believe he is innocent. Nancy tries to say it’s just about procedure, but Teri reaches out and reassures him they believe him. He agrees to sue, especially since the people he will be suing are George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. At the airport, Teri asks why Nancy didn’t just say she believes him since that’s all he wanted. Instead of answering, Nancy gets up to use the bathroom. While she’s browsing the airport gift shop, she is recognized by Stu, who is there to meet the general. He introduces himself and asks her to have a drink. She seems a little suspicious but agrees. They talk about how the beach here is beautiful, and Nancy says someday she thinks Guantanamo will be a tourist attraction where people come to try to understand what happened here. Stu asks what she thinks is happening, and she says she doesn’t know yet, but she knows there’s a reason they’ve put prisoners here outside of US jurisdiction. She asks Stu why he’s keeping the case files from her, and he seems surprised and says he’s not. She tells him about the redacted files, and he says she should sue to see them, and that he actually wants her to have them so that when he wins in court there will be no doubt about Mohamedou’s guilt. He asks why she’s defending someone like that, and she says she’s all defending the law, and asks what he’ll do if it turns out they’ve built this place and abandoned their principles, and it turns out they were wrong.

On the plane back, Nancy tells Teri they need to change the public conversation about the case and make it about more than Mohamedou. Meanwhile, Stu is given a tour of Guantanamo by a soldier, who takes him to a particular cell block and mentions Mohamedou was held here for a while. Stu sees a cart of books, and the guard says sometimes they rip out the last chapters to mess with the prisoners, but stops smiling when he sees Stu’s expression. Stu goes into an empty cell and sees it has rings for chains on the walls and floor and notes how cold it is. He starts to hear loud metal music coming from another room and looks troubled, saying the two kinds of music he hates are heavy metal and country, and he can make an exception for country sometimes. He then meets with General Mandel (Matthew Marsh) and asks him if the things he saw in the cell mean they are using sleep deprivation on the prisoners. The General says it’s one of their tools and asks him if he went through sleep deprivation training during his time in training. Stu says it was horrible, and he only had to live with it for three nights. The General says it was just a couple of sleepless nights, and Stu and the other Marines were fine, and so will the prisoners be. Stu is worried that this means the defense might be able to claim duress, and the General says he knows Stu wants to see the MFRs, but he can’t allow it, and he wasted his trip.

We flashback again to Mohamedou’s time in Gitmo. He is starting to teach himself English and even playfully imitates the guard who has come to escort him outside. He tells the guard he’s a good soldier and asks his name, but the guard says he can’t tell him. When he gets outside, he tries telling Marseille some of the bad words he learned in English, but Marseille sounds depressed. He says he got a letter from his wife, but that’s all it is: a letter, not his wife. He asks if Mohamedou is married, and we flashback to him living in Germany with his ex-wife. They are trying to get pregnant but having trouble. Mohamedou and his friends are watching the news on TV about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and discussing how they could help the Muslims there, which clearly worries his wife. This leads us to another one of Mohamedou’s interrogations, where the interrogators are now yelling at him about choosing to join Al-Qaida. He responds to them in English (which he has started to learn) and tries to explain that he just wanted to help the Muslims fight the Soviets, and that the US was on Al-Qaida’s side then as well. He says he was only there for a few months. They ask why he then deleted the contacts on his phone when he was arrested, and he says he just didn’t want his friends to get into trouble.

We then see him outside again, where he finds the soccer ball in his cell. He asks Marseille if he wants it back, and Marseille says to keep it and that none of them are ever getting out. Mohamedou asks him if he could hear the ocean at night in Marseille like he could in Mauritania and swings back and forth on the fence listening to the waves. He hears the guards come to take Marseille away and manages to see him, for the first time, through a rip in the cloth that covers the fences. Marseille smiles at him and says, “See you later, alligator.” Back in the present, Nancy gives an interview to a reporter about the case. The reporter seems a little hostile, and when the article is published it is not in favor. The men at Stu’s office seem delighted by this, but Stu says that she’s successfully made the case about the right to habeus corpus. He hears shouting down the hall and finds that one of his colleagues isn’t being allowed into the building because his clearance has been revoked. Stu asks why and the colleague says the only thing he did was file the information requests Stu had asked for, and now he has to leave the case, which freaks Stu out. We then see Nancy on the phone with Emmanuel, who says he can’t find any evidence about a French person from Marseille being at Guantanamo, and that maybe Mohamedou made him up. We flashback to Mohamedou walking with the guard from before (he’s now learned his name: Steve), and he begs him to tell him what happened to Marseille because he hasn’t heard him in a long time. Steve admits to Mohamedou that Marseille killed himself a month ago, and Mohamedou is crushed.

We jump ahead to 2008 as Teri and Nancy go to court to argue for access to the government’s files and find a group of pro-USA protestors outside. They yell at the lawyers and even knock Teri down, but she says she’s okay. In court, Nancy successfully argues that the government should release the files, and the judge orders them to hand them over in ten days. When they go the secure facility, there are tons of boxes of files again, this time unredacted. They start going through them. Teri starts to freak out because she finds copies of confessions Mohamedou has written and signed, admitting to everything the government is accusing him of. She’s upset because she genuinely believed in him and held bake sales for his defense fund and has been told not to come to Thanksgiving with her family. Nancy angrily tells her that he still deserves representation, even if he’s guilty, and tells Teri to get out. Teri tearfully leaves.

We go back to Mohamedou being interrogated. His interrogators have brought him cake, saying it’s a goodbye present. Military intelligence is going to take over questioning him since they think he is still not cooperating since he is refusing to admit to knowing those people. They warn him these interrogations won’t be as “friendly” and wish him luck. As they leave, soldiers come in and roughly chain Mohamedou up, ripping up his notebook and throwing a hood over his head before dragging him away. Back in the present, Nancy has come to visit Mohamedou. He asks where Teri is, and Nancy says she has moved on from the case, which disappoints him. She tells him they got the government files, and he is pleased, since it should mean she can see there is no proof against him. Nancy brings up the confessions, and Mohamedou starts getting jumpy, saying they were nothing and that they made him sign them. Nancy asks what he means by that, but he’s afraid to tell her anything. She says to write it down, angrily saying she can’t defend him if he isn’t honest with her, while he shouts back that nothing will help because nothing changes for him here while she gets to go back to her life whenever she wants. She yells that she has no life outside of this case and not to question her commitment to it, and she says that’s the problem: she believes in the case, not in him. She leaves, telling him to either tell her what happened with his confessions or he will have to find a different lawyer.

Later, Stu is throwing a Christmas party, and finds Neil alone outside by the pool. He tells Neil he didn’t like what he saw at Guantanamo or that Neil’s people took his colleague off the task force. He says he’s never been in a conspiracy, but he’s beginning to feel like he’s outside of one now. He’s angry that he can’t get the MFRs because if Mohamedou goes free, he’ll have to answer for it. Neil asks who will answer for Bruce, saying that intelligence reports show that the terrorists on his flight hurt a flight attendant to get him to come out of the cockpit, then cut his throat and let him bleed out while they crashed the plane. Neil angrily says someone has to pay for that, and Stu says it should be someone, not just anyone. Neil flashes back to confronting Mohamedou at Gitmo, asking what it feels like to have innocent blood on his hands.

At Guantanamo, Mohamedou is agitated about writing to Nancy, but finally gets up the courage. As Nancy gets notified that she has a new letter to read, we see Stu in his office at night. Neil shows up, having had a change of heart, and explains that Donald Rumsfeld authorized them to use “enhanced interrogation” (aka torture) and that an aide will take Stu to a room where he can read the MFRs. Nancy reads Mohamedou’s letter as Stu looks at the reports, and we see what happened.

Mohamedou was taken to a cold cell with no amenities or Qu’ran by masked soldiers. He is chained to stand in a “stress position” (standing bent over) for hours as lights flash and heavy metal music blasts, keeping him awake for days. Two male and one female soldier in Halloween masks enter and shout they are going to break him. They waterboard him, pouring water onto his face, so it feels like he is drowning. The female soldier humiliates and sexually assaults him as he prays, causing him to hallucinate his ex-wife. He starts to hallucinate that he is back at the family wedding, but still dressed and chained up like a prisoner, while in fact, he is in the stress position with the lights and music. An exhausted and delirious Mohamedou is told by General Mandel that since Mohamedou isn’t cooperating, they’re going to arrest his mother and bring her here. He still says he can’t be a witness because he didn’t witness anything. Mohamedou hallucinates a door and suddenly finds himself back at his apartment in Germany, still dressed as a prisoner, letting in al-Shibh, the terrorist who stayed one night. As he does, he suddenly sees his first interrogators there, and al-Shibh starts saying that Mohamedou recruited him and 9/11 wouldn’t have happened were it not for him. One of the interrogators starts forcing food into Mohamedou’s mouth, and we cut to his torturers doing the same thing. He’s then put back in the stress position and thinks he sees another prisoner there, who he thinks is his mother until it’s revealed to be another person in a mask. He starts screaming. He’s then in his old interrogation room, and the female soldier from before comes in and takes off her mask. She says they want to stop, but he has to tell them what he knows. Before he can answer, other soldiers break down the door and drag him off as she screams. They put another hood over his head and take him on a speedboat, repeatedly holding his head in the water as they go at top speed. A bloody, exhausted Mohamedou is then revisited by General Mandel, who says his mother has been arrested and will probably be raped if she comes here. Mohamedou prays in his cell, then tells the guard he would like to confess. The General reads over his confession while Mohamedou eats the food he brought (Filet-o-Fish, like in the beginning), telling Mohamedou he wants more but that now he can sleep. After he leaves, Mohamedou spits out the food.

Stu is horrified by what he has read, and Nancy has tears in her eyes. She brings the letter to Kent to read and declassify but tells him to be very careful, since it puts her client in a vulnerable position. We see Stu at church, repeating after the priest about seeking justice and treating every person with dignity. Stu finds Colonel Seidel in the parking lot at work and tells him that he can’t bring charges against Mohamedou because his confessions were given under torture and thus inadmissible and that what happened to him was reprehensible. Seidel angrily says he doesn’t care about prisoner treatment and that his job is to bring charges. Stu says that he can’t, as a Christian and a lawyer, prosecute the case. Seidel calls him a traitor. We then see Nancy visiting Mohamedou. She says she read his letter and she thinks they have a case against the government. She adds that she thinks he should release his letters, maybe as a book, so people can read his story for themselves and put pressure on the government. They hear the Muslim call to prayer, and she asks if he wants her to step out so he can pray. He asks why she cares, and she says she cares about him, and that she came to visit even there’s nothing for him to sign because she never wants him to be alone again.

Stu packs up his desk and leaves his office as his coworkers watch. Later, he meets Nancy at a bar, and she tells him he did the right thing, even if it has lost him friends. She says she’s figured out why they put Guantanamo down there out of US jurisdiction: that it wasn’t to keep the prisoners out of court, but their jailers. Her client isn’t a suspect but a witness. Stu tells her to take a look in a specific box of files, because she’ll like what she finds. The next day Teri comes to work and finds an envelope on her desk. Inside is proof that Mohamedou passed a lie detector test twice. She talks to Nancy, who says it was filed in the box Stu told her about and that even though it’s not admissible in court, it shows he was telling the truth. Teri shows her a photo: she was able to identify Marseille. His name was Ahmed Jabar, and she spoke to his wife. Nancy asks Teri to be on the case again.

We jump to December 2009. Mohamedou’s case is at trial, with Stu’s coworkers prosecuting. Mohamedou is able to testify over video link to the court, saying that in Mauritania, you know not to trust the police and the government, because they use violence and fear to control you. He says that the US has been doing the same thing to him at Guantanamo, that he has been a prisoner for eight years without being charged or brought to trial, but that he doesn’t hold a grudge against the people who have abused him. He says that in Arabic, the word for forgiveness is the same word as freedom, and that is how he is able to be free here. In March 2010, Mohamedou gets a letter and finds out his case was successful, and the judge has ordered that he be released. He high-fives the guards and jumps on his bed, but right as he’s shouting “Freedom!” we cut to text telling us that it would actually be another 7 years before he was released, because the government appealed. His mother died in 2013, and he never saw her again. Throughout that time, Nancy and Teri kept visiting him and helped him publish his letters as a book, Guantanamo Diary, in 2015. He was finally released in 2016, having spent 14 years in prison without ever being charged. We see him being taken out of his cell and walked to a military plane. As they place a blindfold and noise-canceling headphones on him, he smiles and says, “See you later, Alligator.”

We see footage of the real Mohamedou arriving back in Mauritania. Then photos and text show us the real people in the case. Mohamedou lives in Mauritania again and got married in 2018 to an American lawyer. They have a baby son, Ahmed, but haven’t been able to live together as a family and are hoping a country will grant them protection and citizenship. Nancy and Teri are still lawyers working against injustice, and we see footage of Mohamedou giving them necklaces with their names in Arabic. We are told no US agency has ever apologized for the abuse at Gitmo and that of the 779 prisoners who have been held there, only 8 have ever been convicted, and 3 of those were overturned. As the credits roll, we see the real Mohamedou looking at various foreign translations of his book and then singing along to a Bob Dylan song.