A Mighty Heart
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A Mighty Heart

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There are some films intended to entertain. Others seek to inform the audience. On a rare occasion a film comes along that is meant to be experienced. Cinematic works such as this go right to the core of our human experience hitting us right in our emotions. One film of this caliber is ‘A Might Heart’. This film punches the audience hard with an account that is based on a real life tragedy. On January 23, 2002 journalist Daniel Pearl was working a story in Pakistan for The Wall Street Journal. He was on his way to interview Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani in a small village restaurant. On his way there Perl was kidnapped by a group calling themselves ‘The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty’. The group made demands for the release of political prisoners and a halt to American military aide to the Pakistani government. When the demands where not met they murdered Perl by decapitation committing the horrible act to video. Instead of concentrating on this atrocious act this film focuses on the desperate attempts of his wife, friends and colleagues to get Perl back to safety. This film mesmerizes the audience with the sheer humanity of the subject matter. It also contains some of the best performances every placed on film. This is an extremely difficult film to watch. You know going into it that will be no happy ending. The outcome is written in history; written in blood. The screenplay was done by John Orloff based on his interpretation of the recollections of Pearl’s widow, Mariane. This viewpoint gives the film its greatest strength, how Mariane had to deal with this heinous act, not the act itself. This is a powerful film that is a must see for anyone concerned with the state of the world today.

Daniel Pearl (Dan Futterman) was on assignment in Pakistan living there with his wife Mariane (Angelina Jolie). His current focus was a possible connection between Richard Reid, the man who tried to explode a plane with a shoe bomb, and the Al Qaeda terrorist organization. At the end of January, 2002 Daniel believed he was on to a big lead in the story. His wife, also a journalist, was far along in her pregnancy and stayed back to rest later to pursue another aspect of the story. It was a day like so many before. While Daniel was in the field Mariane went about her routine. She would shop, have a little dinner party with some friends and talk to her husband as frequently as possible on the phone. She begins to become concerned when Daniel fails to check in with her. Mariane calls around trying to get some news about her husband’s interview but there is little information to be had. Ultimately she involves the authorities but they have little they can do to help. Days go by with no word on Daniel. The political climate is worse than every with the capture of a highly placed terrorist leader and growing concerns over how the Americans are treating their detainees. She turns to a local police captain (Irfan Khan) and her journalist friends for a frantic search for her missing husband. The bulk of the film is concerned with that search and the emotional toll it had on Mariane. She documents every scrap of the meager information available, trying to piece together where her husband may be. Favors are pulled in, every possible resource is employed but there is no word about Daniel’s predicament until the announcement of his kidnapping and the terrorist demands for his release. Finally a video of his beheading surfaces ending all possible hope.

Director Michael Winterbottom has a varied career. He has taken the helm of such quirky films as ‘9 Songs’, ‘Butterfly Kiss’ and ‘Wonderland’. In this film he gives the audience a memorable experience that no one who views it will ever forget. The film is presented basically in a documentary style. The camera is jerky, constantly in motion. This reflects the mood and emotional state of the characters. It also has the affect of distancing the audience from the emotions of the characters. In lesser hands this would have been a serious flaw but with Winterbottom it forces a stronger set of feelings directly from the audience. You sit there watching a woman in the most horrible situation imaginable like a fly on the wall. You cannot help but to feel for her plight and that is the point of the movie. It personalizes a story you most likely read about in the papers or saw on the evening news. It is one thing to sit back and note what a shame it is but to see how it affected his wife is something on the visceral level. Because of this you cannot say that this entertainment. It is a piece of cinema that is targeted successfully directly at your heart. You find that you put yourself in Mariane’s place and wonder how a person could possible cope with such a situation. Winterbottom was the perfect choice to direct this film. His offbeat style allows this movie to transcend the typical Hollywood bio-pic and become something very special.

Angelina Jolie is one of the most photographed and written about women in the world. From stories of her ever growing family to her tattoos and vials of blood she is an eccentric person that has captured the interest of millions. What is often overlooked is she is one of the most talented actresses ever to appear on the screen. In this film she doesn’t portray Mariane Pearl, she became her. From the massive curly hair atop her head to the way she touches her pregnant stomach Jolie embodies Ms. Pearl. Here she gives the audience a look at a woman undergoing the worse moments of her life. Jolie does not play it for effect she was committed to showing the world the real woman. She portrays Mariane as an intelligent, professional woman. Journalism was part of the common bond she shared with her husband and would also be the way he was taken from her. Jolie shows us a brave, resourceful human being that has to take each moment one at a time. She never lets Mariane break down while in public, that is reserved for quiet moments alone when the absence of her husband come crashing in. Dan Futterman may not have that much screen time but he makes the most of what he has. He is best known as the youngest brother on the ‘Judging Amy’ television series but he is also an accomplished writer receiving an Oscar nod for his screenplay of ‘Capote’.

Paramount presents this film to DVD with the care and respect that they are well known for. The video is in a rich 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer that captures the look and feel of a well made documentary. The Dolby 5.1 audio fills the room with a robust sound field. For extras Paramount has maintained the dedication to the spirit of the people who lived through this. The main featurette is ‘Journey Of Passion: The Making of A Mighty Heart’ which details every aspect of the production. The Pearl family was consulted and respected every step of the way. There is a public service announcement for the Pearl foundation with journalist Christiane Amanpour. There is also a look at the Committee to Protect Journalists that came about after this tragedy. This is a film that will deeply affect you and stay with you long after the closing credits.

Posted 10/03/07

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