In the midst of a summer season full of superheroes and computer-generated special effects, A Mighty Heart makes for the most unlikely release, a bracingly uncommercial film in which most everyone already knows the outcome. Why would anyone want to see a downer film in which militant Islamic terrorists kidnap Daniel Pearl, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal in
By not bowing to convention, however, A Mighty Heart still finds ways to intrigue. Adapted from Mariane Pearl’s memoir, the film does not take the usual high-tech route to supply the viewer with jingoistic feel-good fantasies of romance or video game action or world domination—just the opposite. Using natural lighting and a handheld DV video camera much of the time, British director Michael Winterbottom goes for documentary realism, shooting the story in sequence and encouraging the actors to improvise some of their lines. In an extreme contrast to her portrayal of Lara Croft of the Tomb Raider series, Jolie (as Mariane Pearl) first appears massively pregnant and lying on a bed in a nightgown. I have not seen such subtle acting on Jolie’s part since her work in Girl, Interrupted. Both committed journalists, Mr. and Mrs. Pearl work in murky areas of international power games. As Daniel (Dan Futterman) discusses with various people his dangerous meeting with Mubarik Ali Gilani as he investigates a link with the “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, he also finds time to call his wife Mariane on his cell phone. When he doesn’t come home one evening as planned, we witness Mariane’s increasing desperation as she calls to a line that has gone dead. Then she alerts the Pakistani authorities and the American consulate.
As moviegoers, we get used to having collisions between good and evil defined in obvious terms, but A Mighty Heart emphasizes the infinite shades of grey. For instance, the bombing of 9/11 prompted the American-led war against the Taliban government in
In a manner that reminded me of the American-Indian dynamic in A Passage to
Meanwhile, Mariane just tries to keep her act together by lying in bed reading What to Expect When You Are Expecting as the press start to harass her and kidnappers send out e-mails accusing her husband of being a