A Mighty Heart

Distributed by: Paramount Vantage

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            If you have followed my writing in the past, you probably already know that Angelina Jolie is one of my favorite actresses.  That being the case, I naturally want to see every film that she makes, but often canít get to the theaters in time to see them for one reason or another.  Thus was the case with A Mighty Heart, a movie based on the memoir of Mariane Pearl, which originally aired in theaters in 2007.  Thanks to the local DVD store, I just had a chance to check the film out.

            Angelina Jolie is Mariane Pearl, a French journalist who found love and happiness in her Wall Street Journal reporter husband until January 22, 2002 when he was kidnapped.  Daniel (Dan Futterman) and his pregnant wife were scheduled to fly from Karachi to Dubai the following day, but he had one final interview scheduled for that evening with an Islamic cleric.  He never returned.  When numerous calls to his cellphone were unanswered, Mariane realized that something was wrong and contacted the authorities.

            This prompted an all out cooperative search involving the Pakastani Police, the FBI and American Embassy personnel.  Alone, but for Asra Nomani (Archie Punjabi), an Indian-American journalist and friend of Danny, Mariane was forced to rest her hopes for her husbandís safe return in the hands of people she didnít know.  Witnesses, phone records, emails and hard drives were examined and less than subtle means were used to interview those who might have an idea where to find Danny.  The authorities believed they were getting close when a video was received showing Danny being beheaded by his captors.

            The pace of this film begins rather slowly then moves so quickly, if you blink you might miss something important to the story.  As the movie opens, we are treated to a view of what it is like to walk and drive around Karachi and the question is posed to us: how do you find one man in this overpopulated, overly congested area?  Itís like finding a needle in a haystack.  And yet, somehow American and Pakastani forces combined and came incredibly close to doing so.  The lengths that were gone to in order to obtain information, uncover aliases and locate underground extremists were overwhelming.

            The film puts you right inside the room with Mariane and the team working to find her husband.  It puts you side by side with them and you experience the intensity, the feeling that time is running out and the frustration felt by all as if you are actually there taking part in the investigation.  Flashbacks show the love shared by the two and their hopes for the future, making what happens to Daniel Pearl that much more heartbreaking.  The strength exhibited by Mariane Pearl throughout the ordeal is downright incredible and I wonder that I could be so strong in the same situation.

            Angelina Jolie is an excellent dramatic actress and she executes this role perfectly, showing the strength of Mariane Pearl, but also letting us know her feelings of vulnerability and fear for her husband and her unborn child.  There was some controversy over choosing Jolie for this role despite the fact that the person she was portraying was from a different race, but even Mariane agrees that it isnít the race of the individual that matters, but the powerful events of the true story being told that are important in this film.  As far as Iím concerned, if the author of the memoir doesnít have a problem with it and the actress performs the role exceptionally well, whatís the problem?

            Archie Punjabi is terrific and provides yet another strong female to the mix.  Asra was only an acquaintance of Marianeís.  She was closer to Daniel, but through that bond and their efforts to uncover the truth about his kidnapping, the two become extremely close to one another.  She helps buoy Mariane up at some of her most vulnerable moments.  Other excellent performances include Irfan Kahn as Zubair Mahmood, the East Karachi Inspector General dedicated to helping find Daniel and Will Patton as Randall Bennett a U.S. Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent assigned to assist in finding Daniel.  When we think of special agents and inspectors, we often think of hardened men who express very little emotion and are dedicated to getting the job done.  The dedication of these men is observed throughout the film and yes, these men have seen a lot and as such are hardened to certain aspects of the sort of investigation they are conducting.  Yet, Kahn and Patton are also able to express the emotional sides as well, reminding us that these investigators are very human and subject to frustration, stress and susceptible to the idea of failure.

            The DVD version of A Mighty Heart contains a couple of extras.  In the Public Service Announcement, Christiane Amanpour discusses the Daniel Pearl Foundation whose mission is ďto promote cross-cultural understanding through journalism, music, and innovative communications.Ē  There is a short featurette about the Committee to Protect Journalists, what they do and why they are so desperately needed.  But itís the documentary, Journey of Passion: The Making of A Mighty Heart, that demands watching.  This documentary explains a great deal as to the people being portrayed, the actors portraying them, the scenes and set designs, the camera angles, the locations, the lighting and so much more.  Everything you ever wanted to know about the movie and the source material are all right there.

            A Mighty Heart is an incredibly moving story about a truly horrific event in the history of journalism.  A man who wanted nothing but to report the truth was set up, kidnapped and murderedÖbeheaded no lessÖby a group of extremists who labeled him first a CIA agent, then an agent working with India and finally as a prisoner who may be exchanged for those held at Guantanamo Bay (a false hope that no one truly believed was ever really an option).  More importantly, despite this story of tragedy, there is an underlying story of hope as we watch people of extremely diverse cultures banding together to find one American journalist in a city so populated that there is no accurate census count available.  A Mighty Heart is an emotional film that so immerses the viewer in the story that, despite already knowing what will happen, they are actually as hurt by the outcome as the people in the movie.  Thatís the sign of a well made film and one well worth checking out.


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