Director: Michael Winterbottom
Writer: John Orloff
Cinematographer: Marcel Zyskind
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Dan Futterman, Archie Panjabi, Irfan Khan, Denis O’Hare
Studio/Running Time: Paramount, 100 min.
"There's a warning sign on the road ahead.
There's a lot of people saying we'd be better off dead.
Don't feel like Satan, but I am to them."
-Neil Young "Rockin' In The Free World"
Dramatized in documentary style, A Mighty Heart chronicles the events leading to the 2002 kidnapping and eventual murder of journalist Daniel Pearl
(Dan Futterman) who was in Pakistan on assignment for the Wall Street Journal
investigating the story of shoe-bomber Richard Reid. At times gripping and tense, the film mostly centers around Pearl’s pregnant wife Mariane (Angelina Jolie) as she works to get her husband back. (The film is based on Mariane’s book of the same title.)
Perhaps Jolie offers a unique perspective in playing this French journalist married to a U.S. citizen while working in an Islamic nation. After all, she has traveled the world extensively while rubbing shoulders with world leaders and the poorest of the poor. Whether or not she draws from such experiences, the result is a powerful and convincing performance of a woman struggling to keep her composure and sanity with a dangerous and unpredictable world just outside her well-guarded gates. Also notable is Irfan Khan, playing a Pakistani police detective known only as Captain, who tirelessly searches for Pearl. There is a brief and unexplained appearance by the FBI, but it is Captain who Mariane eventually relies on.
Fortunately, we are spared of Pearl’s horrific death which was videotaped by his executioners. But we do see Captain torture a suspected terrorist to gain information on the journalist’s whereabouts. Director Michael Winterbottom neither condemns nor endorses the torture, instead allowing us to witness without qualification - a method he uses throughout the film. The kidnappings. The politics. The war. It’s all as if to say, “It is what it is.” No preaching and no proselytizing. Just a horrible happening in a continually complicated world.