Based on the recent and true story of Wall Street Journal South Asia bureau chief and reporter Danny Pearl, A Mighty Heart is a compelling real life story taken from his wife's memoir of the same name. Angelina Jolie gives a brilliant and understated Oscar-worthy performance as his wife, Mariane Pearl in this political thriller.
It's one year after the events of 9/11 and Daniel Pearl and his wife are reporting from Karachi, Pakistan. Danny is in the midst of investigating the Richard Reid shoe bomber case and the alleged links between Reid, Al Qaeda, and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Marianne is there supporting him and working as a freelance writer. While on his way to interview a supposed terrorist leader, Pearl is kidnapped by a militant group calling itself The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty. The group claims Pearl was a CIA agent and they send email demands with photos of Danny handcuffed with a gun at his head.
A Mighty Heart follows the six-months-pregnant Mariane as she wends her way through the chaos of a terrorists' captive wife in the wild-west town of Karachi. The night Danny disappears she keeps vigil with a friend and begins calling and notifying people about Danny immediately.Â Â Struggling to reconstruct Danny's steps on the day he disappeared, she begins a chart that links each person of interest and works hand in hand with a Pakistan cop, called Captain, played by the incomparable Irfan Khan (a huge Bollywood movie star now making inroads as a male lead in Hollywood, most recently seen here in The Namesake).
Mariane makes countless calls to Danny's cell phone leaving "I love you" messages that he never hears. She immediately notifies the US Embassy and makes an on-screen appeal on CNN for Danny's safe return. There are many leads, many false leads, many confusing characters, and much hope. A few men are arrested and questioned by Pakistan police, but Danny never returns to Mariane and their baby is born 3 months after his death. One heartbreaking, yet restrained and completely believable moment in A Mighty Heart comes right after Mariane hears about Danny's fate, she leaves a room packed with people and in privacy emits one of the most anguished screams of loss heard in American film in recent history. If tears don't leap to your eyes at this instant you might want to consult a therapist.
In perfect casting choices, Director Michael Winterbottom Â coaxes brilliant performances from Dan Futterman as Danny Pearl, and especially from Angelina Jolie as Mariane. Her performance is restrained and sympathetic, she speaks in a convincing French accent and is adorned in an ancient Mediterranean-type hairdo of upswept curls. She is hugely pregnant (with her real life child) and completely focused on getting Danny back. Exterior scenes were shot on location in the chaotic streets of Karachi. Supposedly Winterbottom never called "Action" and encouraged the actors to improvise scenes. These techniques bring out immediacy in Mariane's desperate race to find Danny.
In his first big studio film, Winterbottom manages to include a staggering wealth of information in this terse and complicated story using docudrama-type storytelling, fast cuts, and handheld camera shots all intercut with flashbacks of Mariane and Danny in happier times. Sensationalism is absent while a mounting feeling of dread follows every scene, building to the endgame that anyone familiar with the story already knows; eight days after his kidnapping Danny is beheaded and cut into pieces with everything captured on videotape and broadcast on the internet. In this case, the facts speak for themselves and Winterbottom couldn't have done a better job serving the story.
Digital Dogs rating:Â A-
MPAA rating: R for horror violence, some sexual content and language.
Running Time:Â 103 minutes
Producers Andrew Easton, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Amnita Overland, Director Michael Winterbottom, Screenplay John Orloff, Laurence Coriat, from the book by Mariane Pearl, Music Harry Escott, Molly Nyman, Editor Peter Christelis, DP Marcel Ziskind , Actors Angelina Jolie, Dan Futterman, Irfan Khan, Will Patton, Archie Panjabi
Â© 2007 by Digital Dogs
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