A Mighty Heart

"Excellent"

A Mighty Heart Review


It's a sign of filmmaking prowess, and occasionally genius, when a director can hand viewers a scenario with a foregone conclusion and make them get lost in the story anyway. In A Mighty Heart, Michael Winterbottom shows that he is definitely that kind of director, flinging us into a panicked maelstrom of chases and false leads that all lead to the same murderous finale, one that is likely clear even to people unfamiliar with the true story the film is closely molded from. Daniel Pearl, respected and beloved journalist for the Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped in Karachi in late January 2002 as he was researching a story on the shoe-bomber Richard Reid. His pregnant wife, journalist Mariane Pearl, marshals an ad-hoc group of his co-workers, Pakistani police, and U.S. officials to find him before it's too late. They're too late.

At the time, Pearl's kidnapping was like a tertiary aftershock to 9/11, proving that nobody was safe. The World Trade Center, international symbol of dominating Western capitalism, made sense as a target. Pearl, a universally respected journalist (evidence shows that "beloved" would actually not have been too strong a description of people's feelings about him) who wanted only to understand the terrorists and to explain them to the world, made no sense. And it's that swirling fog of frightened confusion that Winterbottom evokes so powerfully in A Mighty Heart, one of the best films yet made about modern terrorism.

Based on Mariane Pearl's account of the kidnapping, Winterbottom's lighty-scripted film is a heady and atmospheric film that meshes the hazy rush of the early parts of his Road to Guantanamo with the sharp and detail-oriented reportage of a particularly good Frontline episode. We see relatively little of Danny (played by Dan Futterman, who bears an extraordinary likeness) before he disappears on his way to meeting an extremist cleric, Sheikh Gilani. The rest of the film clicks together in quick fashion as the alarm bells begin to go off: Danny's editor flies over from the U.S., the embassy gets involved, FBI agents show up, as do multiple elements of Pakistani law-enforcement. The clues are thin, but the resources devoted to finding Danny come off as truly astounding, with a massive Pakistani-U.S. team chasing the faintest of leads down thronging Karachi streets. The heat of the hunt doesn't make Winterbottom ignore the street detail; although admiring of Daniel Pearl, he knows quite well that had he not been a well-known American reporter, barely one-hundredth of these same resources would have been deployed for his rescue.

At the middle of this storm is Mariane, played under surprisingly effective makeup by Angelina Jolie (Mariane herself is Dutch and Afro-Cuban), who shows that yes, she can still act when she wants to these days; but sadly still can't do an authentic accent to save her life. Many coming to the Pearls' story for the first time will find Jolie an oddly sedate presence here, as audiences are more used to seeing her in high-camp (Alexander) or animal magnetism (Girl, Interrupted) mode. But Jolie was handed a difficult role here, as the real-life Mariane -- at least, the persona she portrayed in the excellent 2006 documentary The Journalist and the Jihadi -- is possessed of an almost preternatural calm that could leave some frustrated at not seeing more fireworks, particularly given the extreme situation she is flung into. In short, Jolie has to play a real person, and not a movie-star interpretation of a real person. She had to; only a real person could get away with saying, as she does later in the film, "I am not terrorized." In the mouth of an actress, such words would seem ridiculous. She and Winterbottom forgo almost every opportunity to tart it up, to give her great emotional climaxes, instead rushing ahead in the manner of a classic, beat-the-clock crime procedural.

Since most of the characters here puzzling through this tangled kidnapping plot are revealed only in short glimpses and hacked-off shards of conversation, it's fortunate that Winterbottom has assembled such a crack cast. From Broadway veteran Denis O'Hare, as Pearl's hasty and impatient editor, to Bollywood star Irfan Khan as the imperturbably cool Pakistani counter-terrorism officer, it's a uniformly stellar assemblage. They elegantly portray the humanity of the multifarious people caught up in this baffling story, where clues seem to lead only to more clues, deeper and deeper into an extremist underground that appears to stretch on forever, a twilight world that only rare people like Daniel Pearl cared (or dared) to explore without being forced to. And now, fewer probably will.

A mighty meeting.



A Mighty Heart

Facts and Figures

Run time: 108 mins

In Theaters: Friday 22nd June 2007

Box Office USA: $9.1M

Box Office Worldwide: $18.9M

Budget: $16M

Distributed by: Paramount Vantage

Production compaines: Plan B Entertainment, Revolution Films, Paramount Vantage

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 151 Rotten: 41

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: , Dede Gardner,

Starring: as Mariane Pearl, as Daniel Pearl, Harvesp Viraf Chiniwala as Adam Pearl, Azfar Ali as Asra's Boyfriend, as Maureen Platt, Zachary Coffin as Matt McDowell, Demetri Goritsas as John Skelton, Mohammed Afzal as Shabir, Mushtaq Khan as Danny´s Taxi Driver, Daud Khan as Masud the Fixer, Telal Saeed as Kaleem Yusuf, Tipu Taheer as Human Rights Director, as Asra Q. Nomani, as John Bussey, as Captain

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.