Film Reviews

A MIGHTY HEART

By • Jun 22nd, 2007 •

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Paramount Pictures
Produced by Plan B Entertainment, Revolution Films
Running time — 100 minutes

Mariane Pearl is a Spartan wife with a steel base throughout the horrific ordeal skillfully directed by Michael Winterbottom.

We are fascinated with the families of victims for one reason: We actually see true suffering. I will never forget Chandra Levy’s grieving father Robert breaking down every time he spoke to the media. Clinging to his wife Susan, we watched him weep and dramatically lose weight over the months of his daughter’s disappearance. In fact, as a society, we condemn any lack of emotional suffering and quickly question that family member’s guilt – Patsy and John Ramsey (at least one person in America, Natalee Holloway’s mother Beth Twitty, believes John had nothing to do with the death of his daughter), Scott Peterson, Susan Smith, and the parents of Sabrina Aisenberg.

Stoic Mariane Pearl (Angelina Jolie) is the emotional center of A MIGHTY HEART. She grieves for the father of her unborn child quietly. Wall Street Journalist Daniel Pearl was kidnapped in 2002 in Pakistan. His horrific death was filmed and widely broadcast. Mariane Pearl wrote “A Mighty Heart” recounting the days after Daniel had been kidnapped by jihadists.

Director Michael Winterbottom removes all sense of this being a movie star vehicle in the way he frames the entire film as a documentary. It is clear that Mariane Pearl had a tremendous influence on Jolie’s portrayal and Jolie realistically delivers a strong performance. Jolie is wonderful and, as much as I enjoy Lara Croft, she never has to do another glamour role again. She shows here she can act, reproduce Mariane’s French-Cuban accent, and strip away any seductive gestures or acting pitfalls.

(I recently tried again to watch Jolie’s Best Supporting Actress Academy Award performance in GIRL, INTERRUPTED. That award was a gift.)

Yet, for me, and I know I will be in the minority, I never felt emotionally tied to Mariane. She was a serene presence everybody worried about.

Is this why there are two scenes about pregnant Mariane not eating? This is how we know she suffered? In fairness to Jolie, I am assuming Mariane did keep her emotional distress a private matter. But does that make for a riveting, emotionally raw performance?

In A MIGHTY HEART we see what went on during the 10 days that Daniel Pearl was missing. With the powerful Wall Street Journal involved, it does appear that everything was done to find Pearl. Mariane was not abandoned, in fact she had a large, well-fed, 24-hour support staff.

Pearl (Dan Futterman) had one last meeting in Karachi with a man who had a link to Richard Reid (the man I believe was a “patsy”. Who would allow Reid to get on a plane? If he was ahead of you in line, what would you have done?). Pearl was warned about the danger of the meeting and was advised to meet in a public place. Pearl never comes home and his five months pregnant wife, journalist Mariane Pearl, calls the authorities.

When the Wall Street Journal turns over a computer to the CIA, Pearl is seen as either a CIA operative or a Mossad agent instead of an objective journalist. Pearl’s bosses at The Wall Street Journal, John Bussey (Denis O’Hare) and Steve LeVine (Gary Wilmes), travel to Pakistan and set up headquarters in the rooms of Pearl’s friend, writer Asra (Archie Panjabi), who is instrumental in handling much of the grueling footwork. U.S. diplomat Randall Bennett (Will Patton) and several American agencies come on board. The head of the Pakistani counter-terrorism unit, Captain (Irrfan Khan), uses every method at his disposal to get information on what happened to Pearl.

Winterbottom never falters in bringing into focus the world that Pearl actually inhabited. This is a difficult story to film – Mariane is trapped in a house while others do everything they can to find her husband. Winterbottom gives us a stark look at what Pearl faced. Karachi is shown as being dangerous, treacherous and crowded with noise, dust and poverty.

Jolie moves forward in her career, thanks to the skillful hand of Winterbottom. He does not give her any movie star close-ups or a pretty last shot. He shows the back of Mariane walking down a Paris street with her son.


Credits:
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Screenwriter: John Orloff
Producers: Brad Pitt & Dede Gardner, Andrew Eaton
Director of photography: Marcel Zyskind
Production designer: Mark Digby
Music: Harry Escot, Molly Nyman
Costume designer: Charlotte Walter
Editor: Peter Christelis

Cast:
Mariane Pearl: Angelina Jolie
Daniel Pearl: Dan Futterman
Asra Nomani: Archie Panjabi
Captain: Irrfan Khan
Randall Bennett: Will Patton
John Bussey: Denis O’Hare
Dost Aliani: Adnan Siddiqui
Steve Levine: Gary Wilmes
Masud the Fixer: Daud Khan
Omar/Bashir: Alyy Khan
Suleiman: Taj Khan

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