Reel Rewind – A Mighty Heart

A Mighty Heart (M)

Directed by: Michael Winterbottom

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Dan Futterman, Archie Panjabi

Four stars

Review by: Julian Wright

 

Angelina Jolie came out of nowhere in 1999, outshone Winona Ryder in Girl,Interrupted and took home the oscar for her performance. Since then she has made more appearances in the tabloids than she has in quality films. It was starting to look like her highly acclaimed performance as a mental patient was a fluke.

Always one to surprise, Jolie has finally turned in one more searing performance as Mariane Pearl. Just days after the shocking attack on New York city on September 11, married couple Mariane and Danny Pearl (Dan Futterman), both journalists, were working in dangerous territory in Pakistan.

Danny was the South Asia Bureau chief at the Wall Street Journal and was trying to make contact with a man who might have inside information on al-Qaeda. When he does not return from the meeting, which was supposed to be his last interview before the couple headed home, his heavily pregnant wife becomes worried for his safety.

With the help of Danny’s colleagues, US diplomats and the head of the Pakistani anti-terrorism unit, she discovers her husband has been kidnapped by an extremist group. They set up camp at Mariane’s friends house and try to track down where her husband is and find out if he is safe.

What follows is a harrowing account of the long, slow and agonising process of trying to track a Jewish man held captive by Muslims in a country that is so heavily populated. Director Michael Winterbottom cleverly chose to shoot this movie on location, which adds an unforgettable authenticity to the film. It is a technique that fellow British director Paul Greengrass used in his Bourne films and it successfully transports the viewer to that place and time.

While Angelina Jolie gives the best performance of her career, the film itself is sometimes flawed. With so many speaking parts and thick accents, it is often hard to follow who has done what to whom. The maze of endless contacts that the authorities must sort through to find Danny makes things more difficult. The film’s pacing also lacks when it should be making you grip the arms of your chair.

Winterbottom does masterfully craft an emotional journey that, by the end, will have broken your heart. He skilfully and respectfully omits any footage of Danny’s horrifying demise and yet still creates a high level of emotion and one of the most chilling moments in cinema when Mariane learns about it.

Jolie skilfully embodies Mariane’s brave and dignified nature while at the same time, refusing to portray her like a saint. By doing this, Jolie’s raw, layered and complex performance makes Mariane even more relatable. Not so much a political film about who is right and who is wrong, it looks at how terrorism affects people and how those people rise above it.

As appeared in Examiner Newspaper 2007.

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