‘A Mighty Heart’ deftly sticks to tasteful suspense
Special to the Daily
Most of us know the story of Daniel Pearl ” the Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and beheaded in Pakistan in 2002. Considering the subject matter, we know we’re not in for an uplifting film when we set out to see “A Mighty Heart.”
Sobering, yes, but this film is not depressing. It’s also made in superb taste. Naturally, it’d be simple enough to string together a gory, violent sequence of torture and murder leading up to Pearl’s decapitation, but this isn’t really the story of Pearl. It’s the story of his wife, Mariane, and what she went through during the search for her missing husband.
Based on Mariane Pearl’s book, “A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband, Danny Pearl,” the woman had more than a bit of input in the filmmaking and the result is respectable.
The fact that her character was played by Angelina Jolie is a mixed bag. On one hand, the makeup crew did a convincing job of making Jolie look ethnic (Mariane is of French and Cuban descent), but she is rather large for being just five months pregnant, and her French accent wavers considerably when she is yelling.
In such a refreshingly un-Hollywood effort, it’s a bit distracting to constantly see one of Tinsel Town’s most recognizable faces, especially among an otherwise (minus Dan Futterman, who played what turned out to be almost a cameo as Daniel Pearl) unknown cast. Seeing as hubby Brad Pitt was one of the film’s key producers, maybe Jolie was a shoe-in for the role. And nobody can say she didn’t do it justice. If you can get beyond the what-happened-to-Mrs. Smith feeling of seeing her in this documentary-esque, raw flick, you can admit that her performance is quite good.
The story begins as Pearl and his wife are parting ways in Karachi, Pakistan, where the couple ” both journalists ” have set up base. Pearl is pursuing a story on shoe bomber Richard Reid and believes he is meeting up with an important source. He sets out for the interview … and never comes home for dinner.
Kidnapped by a terrorist group, authorities in Karachi swarm Mariane’s house and set up headquarters. Mariane, who worked with her husband in Afghanistan during the war the previous year, frantically begins trying to turn over stones herself along with Daniel’s friends and colleagues from The Wall Street Journal.
The suspense is very real in this film, and the depiction of Pakistani life in all of its chaos and beauty is as palpable as through the window of a cab driving down a Karachi street. The cameras shake and follow men riding on the backs of bicycles, beggars with arms outstretched and saucer-eyed children sitting on the ground. We get a real flavor for the atmosphere. Director Michael Winterbottom can take credit for this. The Englishman’s long list of biting achievements also includes “The Road to Guantanamo” and “24-Hour Party People.” According to the film’s website, Winterbottom made a point to spend ample time with each individual that characters in his film depict in an effort to make “A Mighty Heart” as accurate as possible. He also used Mariane’s book and its details as a blueprint.
“A Mighty Heart” is dedicated to the Pearl’s son, Adam, but really is a tribute to Mariane’s emotional stability and resilience.
As for the nasty details on how Daniel died, they’re merely alluded to in the film. If you want more, you can find them all over the internet. “A Mighty Heart” is not a film about shock and death. It’s a story of strength, and one well worth digesting.
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