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A Mighty Heart

Released: 2007

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 1 hr 48 min

MPAA Rating: R

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Archie Panjabi, Dan Futterman, Mohammed Afzal, Mushtaq Khan, Daud Khan, Telal Saeed, Arif Khan

A memoir of the life of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan in 2002.

The movie itself, however, is something of a disaster.

Review by: SteveRhodes

Added: 8 years ago

Wildly inconsistent and sometimes infuriating director Michael Winterbottom (9 SONGS) takes the Daniel Pearl story and turns it into a slog through complex and confusing Middle East politics. Better bring a dictionary of political factions and allegiances with you, since the film's script is one big muddle. Since most people already know at least the outlines of the story of the slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, A MIGHTY HEART will touch your heart. The movie itself, however, is something of a disaster, partially saved by the poignancy of the true story upon which it is based.

Winterbottom's direction is but one of many problems with the movie. (One suspects that the mainly glowing reviews of the film reflect more respect for Daniel Pearl than an actual appreciation of this movie about him.)

What most people will probably find troubling with A MIGHTY HEART is the casting of the lead. Angelina Jolie plays Mariane Pearl, Daniel's very pregnant wife. Even with her gratingly fake accent, you can't help but think Jolie is just Jolie, not a struggling journalist trying to locate her kidnapped husband and fellow journalist. Her performance isn't bad, as it was in a somewhat similar part in BEYOND BORDERS, but it is just hard looking at this rich mega-star, whose popularity stems from cheesy action films like the TOMB RAIDER series and from her high profile, real-life romances and convince yourself that she is Mariane Pearl. I just never bought it, and I don't think you will either.

In a carefully underplayed performance, Dan Futterman plays Daniel Pearl. Futterman's Pearl, whom we meet frequently in flashbacks, is a very laid-back reporter who approaches all his subjects with utter nonchalance. Although he is working in a very dangerous part of the post-9/11 world, Karachi, Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border, he sets up meetings with terrorists with the same calm demeanor that one would use in arranging to interview the head of General Motors.

The movie is edited into very short clips of a few seconds at a time. As the editor flits from one character's sound bite to the next, we try to piece the story together in our mind. Basically, Daniel goes out to interview a dangerous guy and doesn't come back. Eventually, everyone finds out that he has, as suspected, been kidnapped. The movie leads us to believe, which may well be true, that Pakistan assigned hundreds of people to the case and that they turned Karachi and the rest of the country upside-down looking for him.

In short, it's a heart-breaking story that the film manages to obscure rather than illuminate.

A MIGHTY HEART runs 1:48. It is rated R for "language" and would be acceptable for teenagers.