Review: A Mighty Heart (2007)

A Mighty Heart

A Mighty Heart

Rating



Director

Michael Winterbottom

Screenplay

John Orloff (Book: Mariane Pearl)

Length

108 min.

Starring

Dan Futterman, Angelina Jolie, Archie Panjabi, Mohammed Afzal, Mushtaq Khan, Daud Khan, Telal Saeed, Saira Khan, Aliya Khan, Azfar Ali, Ahmed A. Jamal, Denis O’Hare, Perrine Moran, Jeffry Kaplow, Ishaque Ahmed, Aly Khan, Irfan Khan, Adnan Siddiqui, Shah Murad Aliani, Imran Paracha, Imran Patel, Jean-Jacques Scaerou, Veronique Darleguy, Will Patton, Jillian Armenante, Demetri Goritsas, Zachary Coffin, Sajid Hasan, Farooq Khan, Gary Wilmes, Mikail Lotia, Amy Shindler, William Hoyland, Bilal Saeed, Amy Rosenthal, Ikram Bhatti, Fahad Hussein, Taj Khan, Naeem Sogay

MPAA Rating

R (for language)

Buy/Rent Movie

Poster

Source Material

Review

Based on the true story of an American reporter abducted by Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan, A Mighty Heart mostly explores his wife’s valiant struggle to bring him home alive at all costs.

Ostensibly about a courageous struggle in the face of insurmountable odds, Michael Winterbottom’s film follows Mariane Pearl’s (Angelina Jolie) lengthy search for her missing husband has very limited action. Outside of a few flashbacks of known events surrounding Daniel Pearl’s (Dan Futterman) abduction, most of the events in A Mighty Heart take place in her Karachi home where she and Daniel spent a good deal of time, each working on separate stories in Pakistan.

Futterman’s portrayal of Daniel Pearl is strong and displays his firm grasp of the dramatic and the rest of the supporting cast blend effectively into the story, but this is a film about Mariane Pearl and a large portion of the film deals with her role in the investigation and her refusal to give up that her husband could still be alive. To carry a film so narrowly devoted to one character is a difficult task, but Jolie does a fantastic job doing it.

There isn’t a single emotion Jolie doesn’t display in the film, from her joyful flashbacks with her husband to the mixed blessing of giving birth without her husband by her side to the amazing final moments when she must accept the news of Danny’s death with as much controlled rage and sorrowful dignity a woman with such strong convictions would possess. After years of major roles in blockbuster films, Jolie returns to the roots that made her a name, delivering her finest performance to date, far outstripping her Oscar winning work in Girl, Interrupted.

The film itself is a bid bland, however, and were it not for Jolie’s brave performance, this might have been better suited to the Lifetime channel. While Winterbottom and screenwriter John Orloff go to great lengths to ensure the integrity of detail in the film, A Mighty Heart still only amounts to a documentary-style investigation of a crime once strongly centered in the American journalistic conscience.

One of its greater strengths is that it sympathetically portrays some Pakistani people while casting others as fundamentalist terrorists, which makes a compelling case against the wholesale lumping of foreign nationals into the same category that often occurs when people are exposed to cultures so different from their own. It does all this while not distracting the viewer from the human elements of the story.

A Mighty Heart is a deeply flawed film that laboriously drifts through Mariane Pearl’s unquestionably noble quest and drifts to its inevitable conclusion. Thank goodness Jolie was along for the ride; I fear how much of the film I might have missed while sleeping.

Review Written

September 25, 2008

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