Tahar Rahim as Mohamedou Ould Salahi in The Mauritanian Photo: courtesy of Glasgow Film Festival
The US military's behaviour in Guantanamo Bay is viewed through the prism of a single inmate's experience in Kevin Macdonald's latest film, which is adapted from Mohamedou Ould Slahi's memoir. He was held at the prison for 14 years without trial under suspicion of having helped the 9/11 terrorists and the film charts what happened to Slahi (Tahar Rahim) as lawyer Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) and her assistant (Shaylene Woodley) took on his case. In a separate, though connected story, we follow conservative military lawyer Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch, doing a surprisingly good job with a southern American accent) who has been tasked with prosecuting Slahi - and who shows that integrity is not solely the province of those on the left of politics. This is a film that is about procedure but it becomes gripping thanks largely to Rahim, who brings every ounce of stoic humanity to the central role. Like Adam Driver-starrer The Report, the US Detention and Interrogation programme (for which read, torture) is held up to the light - although the direct violence shown is used sparingly. But The Mauritanian proves more memorable by keeping its focus on the single case at its heart, it's a slow build but once it begins to grip it doesn't let go. Read our interview with Macdonald and the full review.
Sound Of Metal, Amazon Prime
Jennie Kermode writes:The ever-reliable Riz Ahmed has received multiple award nominations for his role in this film and they're well deserved, but his inspired performance is just one among many reasons to watch it. He plays a heavy metal drummer touring with his singer/guitarist girlfriend. They're both addicts who have stayed clean by supporting one another and they have an intense, passionate relationship, but their lives are turned upside down when the drummer discovers that he's going deaf. Coerced into rehab on an isolated farm, he initially does all he can to resist the embrace of the Deaf community there (its members all played by deaf actors in a film which is informed throughout by real Deaf people's experiences) but ultimately the change of pace alters the way that he relates to many aspects of life. Brilliant sound design will immerse you completely in a vivid story about communication, identity and independence. Read our full review
Her, 1.25am, Film4, Sunday, April 17
Jennie Kermode writes: Spike Jonze's melancholy love story is one of those films likely to find a new audience in the aftermath of the pandemic as more people are able to relates to the idea of a romantic and sexual relationship which doesn't involve physical contact. It's not a physically distant human being whom its hero, played by Joaquin Phoenix, falls in love with, however, but an A.I. engineered to be an expert at understanding him and making him happy. Though the final twist seems a bit naïve and lets characters off the hook, the way that an initially blissful relationship morphs into something more complicated is wholly predictable. That's not a weak point, as the whole has something of the tone of a classical tragedy, and more to say about the human condition than the nature of human sexuality. Phoenix is wholly committed to his character and great voice work by Scarlett Johansson, whose connection with the alien will remind some viewers of her work in Under The Skin, really brings this to (artificial) life. Read our full review.
My Octopus Teacher, Netflix
You can catch the winner of this year's Best Documentary BAFTA any time you like on Netflix and it's well worth taking the plunge with swimmer Craig Foster as forges an unexpected relationship with the octopus of the title. There's a thoughtful sweep to this film from Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed, which charts Foster's genuine sense of wonder as he discovers more about the eight-tentacled pal he encounters off the coast of South Africa - something that is infectious for the viewer as we watch this fiercely intelligent creature's sometimes playful, sometimes dangerous escapades beneath the waves. Read our full review.
Submarine, Film4, 1.55am, Tuesday April 13
Richard Ayoade may be better known for his appearances in front of the camera rather than behind them, but his debut is a coming-of-age treat. It stars Craig Roberts (making his big screen film debut) as Oliver a 15-year-old Welsh kid grappling with the sorts of issues that dogged that other teen classic, Adrian Mole, a few decades before - although Oliver is a lot smarter than Ade. With his parents' (Sarah Hawkins, Noah Taylor) marriage disintegrating as his feelings for fellow teen Jordana (Yasmin Paige) growing by the day, the stage is set for a run through familiar teen themes, but Ayoade - whose film buff credentials are on display in his nods to a raft of films and styles, including the French New Wave, Bergman and a whole lot more - injects the whole thing with a breezy breath of fresh air, while keeping the focus firmly on the characters at its heart. Read our interview with Ayoade and the full review.
Raging Bull, Wednesday, 11.05pm, Film 4
Robert De Niro's work may have been decidedly patchy in the past decade or so but this classic is a reminder of just how great he can be at his most intense. He inhabits the hulking figure of Jake La Motta in Martin Scorsese's tale of the self-destructive boxer, who can't keep his violence in check, working for the first but not the last time against Joe Pesci, who plays as La Motta's brother-cum-manager Joey, in the role that brought him to prominence. There's an operatic quality to the action both inside and outside the ring, with cinematographer Michael Chapman (reteaming with Scorsese after Taxi Driver) using the crisp black and white to great effect both inside and outside the ring. Read our full review.
Elle, 1.05am, Friday 16, Film 4
Anne-Katrin Titze writes: Although Isabelle Huppert's character in Paul Verhoeven's Elle could almost swap clothes with the one she plays in Mia Hansen-Løve's Things To Come, there is no mistaking one for the other. Huppert masters two vastly different approaches to storytelling. The deeply felt portrait of a woman in crisis on the one hand and a mysterious, nonetheless perfectly plausible thriller heroine on the other. Verhoeven moves smoothly from one curious interaction to the next. Step by step we meet her friends, family, neighbors and the employees at the video game production company she owns. The first image we see is that of a cat while we hear sounds of a violent rape. Michèle Leblanc (Huppert) is assaulted by a man in a black body stocking and ski mask in her home. Elle is not a study of victimhood, nor a manual for overcoming trauma, nor a user-friendly revenge fantasy. As all good fairy-tale heroes do, instead of sitting around and explaining, they act. Read our interview with Huppert and the full review.
This week's short selection is Halima Ouardiri's Mokhtar an affecting drama about a boy who brings home an injured bird much to the ire of his father.