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Telling the truth is generally considered to be the first step on the
path to righteousness. It brings redemption to some and relieves the
guilt of others. Many people have a hard time accepting the truth when
faced with it. That difficulty in dealing is perhaps the main reason
some run far away from the truth altogether. Given how troubling facing
the truth can be in everyday reality, being subjected to it in
celluloid on the big screen is a very hard sell. This is even more
relevant when the film in question is based on an event that was played
out to the point of emotional exhaustion in the media. (Just ask the
producers of UNITED 93.) This is the plight of A MIGHTY HEART, an
adaptation of Mariane Pearl's novel of the same name, about her
experiences during the search for her kidnapped husband, Daniel Pearl,
in the winter of 2002. For director Michael Winterbottom, this is only
the beginning though. Assuming he manages to get people to see the
film, (casting Angelina Jolie in the role or Marian Pearl certainly
doesn't hurt the film's chances), Winterbottom must then get people to
forget that they know how it's all going to end.
Winterbottom is too smart to go against the grain. Instead, he uses the audience's prior knowledge of the story to incite an even deeper emotional reaction. He begins by establishing his style. A MIGHTY HEART is not a documentary but rather a fictionalized reenactment of actual events that is shot and edited like a documentary. There are no talking heads but the camera is an active participant in the drama that unfolds. Hand-held movement, jump cuts and an omnipresent observer's point of view lend realism to the film's already tense premise. For those who aren't aware, Jewish-American journalist, Daniel Pearl (played here by CAPOTE scribe, Dan Futterman) was kidnapped in Pakistan in January of 2002. The violent act became an international scandal as the group that claimed responsibility for the crime demanded the liberation of prisoners from American detainee prison, Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba. The American government does not give in to the terrorists' demands. It doesn't end well. The film focuses on the efforts made by Mariane, the Pakistani police, the C.I.A. and the journalistic community throughout the search for Daniel. Knowing Daniel doesn't live through the ordeal and that this search is fruitless may leave the audience without hope but the dedication and fervor with which the case is attacked carries enough hope to inspire an overwhelming sympathy that sinks our hearts when what we know is coming actually comes.
A blustering soundscape and tightly framed street and crowd shots elevate stress levels to unimagined heights. Mariane is alone in a foreign country, searching for the most important person in her life. Knowing the odds are against her, holding on to hope becomes all the more complicated when she is surrounded by strangers, traffic and the sounds of incessant honking, cell phones and random farm animals. The chaos is absolutely inescapable. Yet still, Mariane must remain calm. After all, she is the heart of this operation. If her heart fails, all hope is lost and all efforts will fall apart. Jolie exhibits both outer strength and inner fragility at the same time as Mariane. She is direct and focused in face of this horrific reality, holding it together for Daniel, herself and her unborn child but Jolie's distant eyes and suddenly fidgeted demeanor suggest just how difficult maintaining all this composure truly is. Being a journalist herself, Mariane's most endearing quality is perhaps her ability to remain hopeful in spite of all the horror she has known in her own career without coming across as naïve. Jolie's balancing act upon such a tightly wound rope is truly genuine in both its intention and execution.
Any movie entitled A MIGHTY HEART cannot spend all its time entrenched in fact. After all, there is a delicate, growing love between Daniel and Mariane that is also being held prisoner. This love though cannot be held captive and gives life to hope. Their love comes back to Mariane in flashes throughout her suffering. Insignificant moments like the last time they saw each other take on new meanings, making the loss feel larger while still reminding her what she is fighting to find. The truth behind A MIGHTY HEART is that it takes one to live through something like this and, more importantly, live past it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The story of Daniel Pearl is a tragic one. I remember following it all
on the news until the fateful day of his horrific beheading. Just
imagining what his family and friends could have been thinking during
the whole ordeal is tough to fathom, but when his wife is there with
him in Pakistan, pregnant with his first child, your heart must go out
to them. Pearl's widow, Mariane, used her journalistic skills to write
a novel on what transpired from his kidnapping to eventual murder. Her
words are, I'm sure, haunting and filled with an unbearable amount of
love, both lost and strengthened. To have the courage to allow that
story be told to the world is amazing. Director Michael Winterbottom is
definitely the man to be trusted with such material and he does not let
us down here with A Mighty Heart.
Being a story of nonfiction that so many people know, it takes a bit of craft and ingenuity to make it fresh and interesting to the audience. Winterbottom, as a result, shoots the film hand-held and up-close with numerous cut-ins of actual news footage for added realism. The editing of documentary stock with the actors portraying our leads, both in the present and in flashbacks to the past, is expertly handled. There are no missteps visually at all as Winterbottom knows how to evoke emotion with economy. When the men on the search for Pearl finally confront the atrocity, it is in their reactions to the video that makes us understand the brutality. We don't need to be shown the carnage because the faces of these men say it all.
Give credit to Angelina Jolie for coming into this project with dedication and professionalism. Her real life persona is nonexistent as she is fully taken over by Mariane Pearl. Her accent is impeccable, especially watching scenes where emotions take over and yet the accent still never falters. She embodied the strength that allowed Pearl to deal with the days and weeks desperately seeking answers. It all culminates in a heart-wrenching moment of grief and release of all the feelings she refused to let take over until absolutely necessary. I was completely impressed by her performance.
The other actors are fantastic as well. Dan Futterman plays Danny Pearl with integrity and love; he was a fearless man who believed in his job and the search for truth. Irfan Khan follows up his brilliant turn in The Namesake with another solid role as the police captain, and Denis O'Hare, Will Patton, and Archie Panjabi are wonderful as others trying their hardest to get through it all. This is not a vanity project for Jolie as there is a good portion in the middle of the film where she disappears. The movie's supporting cast does an admirable job in never letting it falter without the one character in the middle of it all.
Much like United 93, A Mighty Heart is a story that is tough to experience, but also one needing to be seen. There are few things that I can say went wrong with the film, and although I may never have the necessity to view it again, I'm glad I took the time to sit down with this tale of hope, compassion, and life in the midst of devastating tragedy.
This is an intimate film. Basically a love story set in the political
wreckage after the attack on the World Trade Center. As such, we don't
get much detail about the different factions in Pakistan or who is
"good" or "bad." It's the story of a couple who find themselves being
used by terrorists and whether it is mere coincidence because they are
Westerners or whether more specific points are being made because
Daniel Pearl is Jewish aren't really explored, a wide variety of
explanations are offered. Instead, as a backdrop to the suspense and
the couple's relationship, we get a visual poem of life in Islamabad
and Karachi, which I found beautiful, fascinating and more than just a
little frightening. These are not cities for people with
With the story beginning the day of Daniel Pearl's kidnapping, his character is fleshed out only through flashback or what others say about him, as well as the devotion of all who search to rescue him. I doubt few will go to this film without knowing the outcome. I suppose some fans of Ms. Jolie might attend and find themselves unaware of the events portrayed in the movie. So Winterbottom has his work cut out for him since most in the audience know the conclusion.
As Mariane Pearl, Angelina Jolie gives a remarkable, restrained performance. Her face is a mask and emotion is communicated almost exclusively through her eyes. It's the gift of a remarkable talent for the screen. I don't know how anyone could have been better. Others in the cast, too, are notable: Archie Panjabi holds her own with Jolie whenever they're together on the screen. It's a particularly complicated role since she becomes the target of the Pakistani press as the reason for Pearl's abduction, and her guilt, bafflement and frustration give the film added suspense. And Irfan Khan, the pivotal Pakistani investigatorin a role that could have been clichédbrings an urgency to his character that earned my sympathy for succeeding in what must have been an impossible task. The film opens with Mariane Pearl describing Karachi as the World's second largest city and her husband was trying to meet with one man how impossible it must be to find a single person in such a large place. That proves prophetic as Irfan Kahn then has to find Daniel Pearl.
The growing alarm of the first night of Pearl's abduction is particularly well done by both the director and actors.
I'm a little shocked by others' comment here that the Pearl's shouldn't have been "doing what they were doing" or because they put themselves in a dangerous situation we should somehow feel less sympathetic. I'm ashamed that such comments could be made in the face of this tragedy.
MIGHTY HEART is an important film with a tremendous performance from
Angelina Jolie and a superb cast that joins her on screen in a story
that captures the fear of terrorism which we live with today. From the
first frame to the final scene, the power of the camera which moves
across the streets of Karachi and into the homes of its citizens,
creates a pulse that moves the film forward with both excitement, dread
and fear. Fear for not only Daniel Pearl's life, but for many victims
of the destructive nature of terrorism the world over.
The film is intelligent, suspenseful, and captures the world of technology which we live in today-cell phones, IP addresses, computers and laptops and the internet-which connects us to both good and evil. There is an anti-American underlying theme in the film and through what America has done in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the audience can fathom the hatred felt for America in many parts of the world. Thus, MIGHTY HEART is a film which delivers both a tragic story, but also one for the United States of America as it continues the violent war in Iraq.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Michael Winterbottom's "A Mighty Heart" is probably the most important
film released so far in 2007. And it will probably be the most
controversial this whole year, saddled as it is with political
implications that could make it the target of activists on both the
left and the right.
Surprisingly enough, the movie is almost politics free. The basic story we all know. Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl disappears while trying to tie up one last interview about terrorism while on assignment in Pakistan. From there, his pregnant wife Mariane, their close friends, and various branches of various governments pull out all the stops to find him, but don't get there in time. Pearl is beheaded by his terrorist captors.
While the questions about politics could have dominated this story, it is much more of a police procedural, focusing for the most part on how you track down criminals in a city as crowded as Karachi, Pakistan. And incidentally, the film does a magnificent job of creating a time and place in an Asian city most Americsns know nothing about.
Politics hardly comes into play, although the story does touch on the topic at various places along the way, noting Pearl was a Jew in a country that was a hotbed for Islamic extremism; that there are consequences to US policies around the world, including the operation of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
But the politics virtually fly by in this film.
For its actually the story of Mariane Pearl and how she holds up as she takes a very active role in the search for her husband, but must take it from her home, because she is very pregnant with their first child and can't go out and kick in doors herself.
The real political fireworks here are over the performance of Angelina Jolie. Many of us have long suspected that she is among the best actresses around today, but her talent is too often buried in mindless spectacle films.
Here, Jolie delivers not her standard tough girl performance, a staple of her early career, but a very nuanced portrayal of a woman who has to be strong in order to lead the effort to free her husband. So she holds it in -- literally everything including at one point her urine. That makes her occasional explosions very expected. But the final eruption, when she learns her husband really has been murdered, is one of the most shattering scenes in recent film memory.
Some people, though, won't like this picture because they don't like Jolie, for all kinds of reasons. Some spout nonsense about her not being black, yet playing a woman who is black, even though the real life Mariane Pearl is French, considers herself of multi-ethnic background, and asked Angelina to play her. Others on the right attack Jolie for everything from adopting orphaned kids to visiting war refugee camps, all of which they associate with liberal Hollywood and thus adoption and caring about refugees must be evil.
Hopefully, most people will ignore both sides, for this picture is more about how one stands up in times of crisis than anything else. If this movie was a crisis, Jolie stands up well. She'll probably get a best actress nomination for this role and she deserves it. See the movie.
Angelina Jolie is not just a beautiful woman and the daughter of actor
Jon Voight, she is also an incredibly versatile actress. This
Oscar-winning beauty is one of those few who is just as comfortable
starring in big blockbusters as in emotional dramas. She takes every
part very seriously.
Jolie is close friends with Mariane Pearl, the journalist wife of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (played by Dan Futterman). She is the author of "A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl" (on which the film is based) and wanted the actress to portray her. Because Angelina Jolie is a true method-actress - she added dark ringlets, a pregnancy bump and speaks with Pearl's Cuban-French accent. The outcome is simply outstanding! It's about as genuine as any acting performance can get. It's obvious that Jolie didn't want to settle for anything less. She has the utmost respect for Mariane Pearl and the tragedy she went through. And she wanted to translate this amount of respect into her acting.
The amazing thing about this semi-documentary film is that it manages to keep such a hopeful spirit even though we are already aware of what lies ahead. Reporter Danny Pearl is going to die by the hands of Pakistani extremists yet somehow we still keep the faith. On top of that: a good deal of the movie is shot with a hand-held camera and this technique builds the tension especially during the torture/interrogation scenes. It almost feels as though we are present during the entire ordeal. When the terrible news finally comes out that Mariane's husband has been slaughtered mercilessly, the screaming of Angelina Jolie is so realistic and painful that it brought instant tears to my eyes.
In short: A beautiful homage to a horrifying true story with a terrific Angelina Jolie.
The movie is brilliant. Michale Winterbottom has done an amazing job to
give the real feel to the movie. It is not a glossy painted Hollywood
drama. Every character has done justice to their role, specially
Angelina Jolie, who was brilliant.
The movie is shot in a way that artfully places the viewer into the chaos of Karachi As it unfolded, I could not shake the impression that this film would be a career-making achievement for Jolie; without apology, it is simultaneously an unabashedly political vehicle that does not fall victim to sloganeering or jingoism, as well as an effective and gripping re-telling of a story that is still fresh in the minds of the audience. I know a lot of people are criticizing the movie.. but the best thing about this movie was it does not points finger on anyone. The movie made me think about the time we are living in. It is a movie about a pain and struggle of women who lost her husband. Just go and watch the movie with an open mind ... we need to stop pointing fingers and just try to become a better person.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's a moving film, and Jolie plays the wife of the assassinated
journalist well. She'll probably win a deserved nod for an award. But
the script falls short in a most important way.
Daniel Pearl was not kidnapped and beheaded because he was Jewish (which the movie's script tells us he was). One more time, mainstream media/film-makers block the truth of 9/11.
Pearl was a journalist with a major U.S. publication chasing a breaking story for who was behind the attacks. It was January 2002--what else would he be doing?! The movie makes an abstract mention of the $100,000 wired to Mohammed Atta but then drops it. So the truth of what he was investigating and why he was killed is trivialized.
(In real life--which this movie pretends to portray) Omar Shiekh, who wired the $100,000 to Mohammed Atta, the Al Qaeda bag-man in Florida, was an undercover ISI agent (verified). The ISI (Pakistan's intelligence) is a so tight with the CIA, they're often referred to and thought of as the same agency in Pakistan. During the week of 9/11, ISI Chief General Ahmad was on an official visit in the US meeting with the Pentagon, the National Security Council, CIA Chief Tenet, a couple of Senate Intelligence Committee members, and Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage. (all a matter of public record)
Sometimes Hollywood is ahead of the rest of us, and at least sneaks in truth and consequences. Daniel Pearl was investigating the ISI, their connection to the CIA, and the $100,000, and that was why he was kidnapped and assassinated.
"A Mighty Heart" is a missed opportunity to be a really good film because they omitted the heart of the story. Mrs. Pearl's heart must be 'heart-sick.'
Having lived and worked in India and Pakistan, I did enjoy the reality captured in the street scenes.
This is one of the more intelligent and well constructed movies of 2007
thus far. Touching on the human element as it collides with the
unpleasant realities of hot-bed issues including politics and religion,
the brutality and evil this story depicts is at times difficult to
Difficult to watch because the content is disturbing, which is the intent of the film. We see a very human dimension to the real life characters who are depicted sensitively, making the grotesque outcome all the more horrifying. The story is fair to the innocent parties involved, and honest in rightfully assigning the blame to those responsible for these heinous acts. Dramatically and artistically, this is a superior movie.
Angelina Jolie's portrayal of Mariane Pearl feels sincere, but she appears miscast. Little dimension is brought to her real-life subject, a woman inexorably thrust into the limelight amidst painful circumstances. The film would have been better off with another actress in this challenging role.
Still, the movie is outstanding, and worthy of your time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Many have trashed 'A Mighty Heart' deeming it a pointless film because
the facts are already known and thus there was little suspense.
However, I don't believe that that's what 'The Mighty Heart' is about.
This isn't a from birth till death biopic. It particular looks at how
the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl affects his wife and the people who
desperately attempt to save him. It is more a character driven film
rather than plot-oriented.
'The Mighty Heart' also succeeds because it goes against stereotype and the actors do a fascinating job of bringing them to screen. Mariane Pearl remains calm, focused and controlled throughout the entire chaotic ordeal. It is only upon hearing the news of her husband's fate that she explodes otherwise she keeps her cool all through, even after Pearl's death, she is composed and hopeful rather than broken down. Captain is an officer with genuine intentions to save Pearl. He's a practicing Muslim and not a Western hater. He loves his job, is passionate about it and his country and is revolted by what the terrorists have done. What makes the characters and their actions more effective is the fact that they were based on real people. Granted that 'The Mighty Heart' is a fictionalized account rather than a documentary but that does not take away the essence of how these people went about such a horrifying situation.
Winterbottom's directorial approach in presenting this account is commendable. It would have been very easy to make this look like a docudrama or a melodramatic farce but instead he cleverly manages to keep it well balanced and the emotions under control but still visible to the viewer. The viewer views the film like a concerned outsider. And, even though we know the outcome, we are concerned and overwhelmingly sympathetic for Mariane and her baby, for the team putting their efforts day and night to save her husband and for Daniel.
The various camera-work (handheld, close-ups, jump cuts) is impeccable. The glimpses and sounds of the heated and crowded Pakistani streets add to the tension. The characters react to a ringing cellphone expecting hope only to be let down.
Angelina Jolie dons a new simpler look and gives a very spirited performance. Her calmness and patience displays her strength but her eyes reveal a hint of despair and vulnerability. Archie Punjabi does an equally superb job as Daniel's friend. She skillfully downplays Asra's frustration, guilt and concern. The building friendship between Asra and Mariane is well demonstrated by these two actresses. In a way, 'A Mighty Heart' is about these two strong women who are brought close together by this ordeal. Irfan Khan delivers a wonderfully restrained performance and he shows his character's compassion, determination and frustration with remarkable ease. The supporting cast, that includes Will Patton and Dan Futterman, does an overall good job.
'A Mighty Heart' is a sincere account of a true tragic event. It's a strong woman's story of hope. Even after having gone through such a traumatic experience, Marianne comes out of it with her head high. She remains strong and patient. She does not turn hostile towards the Pakistani. In fact, she is aware that many unfortunate Pakistanis have experienced similar fate and expresses her compassion. She does not go on hating the world or the authorities. She is thankful and appreciative of all those who have fought with her. Remarkable.
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