A MIGHTY HEART
Staying Strong When True Facts Outweigh Dreams Of False
The Popcorn Reel Film Review: "A Mighty Heart"
By Omar P.L. Moore/June 5, 2007 -- the film opens in the U.S. and Canada on June
Angelina Jolie as Mariane Pearl in Michael Winterbottom's film "A
Mighty Heart", which opens in North America on June 22.
(Photo: Peter Fountain)
Michael Winterbottom achieves a feeling of helplessness and
unease that is palpable in "A Mighty Heart". Like the fates of those
chronicled in last year's "United 93", we know the tragic result for Wall
Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan circa 2002, but the agony
of what comes in between -- namely the flailing, desperate search to piece
together a complex, ragged political jigsaw puzzle leading to Pearl -- makes for
an uncomfortable viewing experience, even though we never see any onscreen
Just when "A Mighty Heart" could be accused of a lack of emotional tapestry and
dimension, a crescendo of emotion bursts through in the film's third act.
And a stellar supporting cast that includes the excellent Irrfan Khan (of the
recent film "The Namesake") as the Pakistani Captain who thoroughly and
earnestly journeys through to get the seemingly unassailable facts, as well as
Will Patton, who plays Randall Bennett. Archie Punjabi plays Danny's
Journal colleague Asra. (The real-life Asra Nomani was a consultant on the
film.) Punjabi is also good here, driving the urgent investigation of
Danny's disappearance. Last seen in the U.S. in Ridley Scott's 2006 film
"A Good Year", she supplies another strong acting role to her resume. Dan
Futterman, who wrote the script for the Oscar-winning "Capote", is viewed mostly
in flashbacks as Daniel Pearl, but is memorable, depicting the intrepidness,
skepticism and courage that the role of the real-life journalist required.
But above all this film belongs to Angelina Jolie, who is superb as journalist,
author and widow Mariane Pearl. One looks hard at the Mariane Pearl that
Ms. Jolie portrays onscreen but looks in vain, for one cannot find a trace of
the Oscar-winning actor. We really do forget that Jolie is even there.
Her performance is internal and visceral in both its silent mourning and
eruptive grief. Pearl has been grieving throughout the film, even when she
has been beaming and smiling. Her instincts tell her what is true and what
is not, and Jolie does amazing work in transmitting Mariane's emotional state,
which in several instances turns on a dime within the same scene. The
fragility of life and emotion are assessed in discrete and delicate swatches of
acting from Jolie, whose best work has arrived here. A certain Oscar
nomination and numerous other awards kudos beckon for Jolie, whose work also
embodies the spirit and look of Mariane Pearl, who was a consultant on the film.
More importantly however, the real-life Mariane Pearl's dignity and selflessness
has been left firmly intact and unimpeachable. And ultimately, Danny
Pearl's memory has been honored in a gentle way, not specifically as a
journalist or as a hero, but as a man that warmly engulfed Ms. Pearl's life and
complimented it with love, dedication, fearlessness and sanguinity. The
repetition of one moment that Mariane recollects is an especially powerful elegy
in the Mr. Winterbottom's film and represents a special signature moment.
As an aside, it is worthwhile noting how Tamara Tunie (who has appeared in
several films such as "Devil's Advocate") would have fared as Mariane. In
Taylor Hackford's "Advocate" she in some ways looked a dead ringer for Mariane
Pearl, and one can speculate endlessly as to whether she would have delivered a
phenomenal performance. Even so, director Winterbottom -- who has
registered power before in documentary films like "The Road To Guantanamo",
about the Tipton Three, British citizens held for two years at Guantanamo Bay
without being charged of any crime -- isn't trying to showcase Jolie or
look-a-like-ability. We rarely see full-on, full-length shots of her, and
when we do, she has her back turned, is crying, or is lying down. Jolie's
terrific acting showcases itself, but Hollywood is not on display.
The streets of Pakistan are shot with brightness and then in shades of despair.
A solemnity has blanketed the film even with its busy, robust start.
Marcel Zyskind's cinematography is outstanding and Mark Digby's production
design is even better than that. Peter Christelis edits the film in
snapshots, quiet imprints that tap at the soul. Each image is a cautious,
careful and well-placed picture, sometimes frenzied, sometimes calm, but most
times adding a layer of dread and impending sorrow building to the inevitable
"A Mighty Heart" is quietly devastating, but it supplies moments of triumph.
Though its documentary-like style is highly effective, more evocative emotional
moments would have made the film easier to stomach. But then again, the
real-life events of February 2002 weren't easy to process either, so in that and
many other respects, Mr. Winterbottom faithfully captures the truth of these
moments and painful heartbeats on film. Thanks to him (and the actors) "A
Mighty Heart" retains its power in all the right places and dimensions, and at
its core penetrates the consciousness of all, especially those who have lost
journalist friends and loved ones during the course of the last few years of the
chaos in Iraq and elsewhere. The film is also a painful lullaby being
whispered by Mariane Pearl not only to the audience but to her son Adam, whom
she, at six months of pregnancy, has been carrying (and speaking to) throughout
the harrowing last four weeks of his father's life.
"A Mighty Heart" is a loving, moving epitaph of life, bravery and spirit.
The film is based on Mariane Pearl's book A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and
Death of My Husband Danny Pearl and is a tribute the love they shared, a
scene near the film's conclusion renders this exquisitely. The film is
also dedicated to her son. Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Andrew Eaton
produced the film, which is written by John Orloff.
Life, love and remembrance: Angelina Jolie as Mariane Pearl and Dan Futterman
as Daniel "Danny" Pearl in Michael Winterbottom's "A Mighty Heart". The
film opens in the U.S. and Canada on June 22. (Photo: Peter Fountain)
"A Mighty Heart" is rated R by the Motion Picture
Association of America for language. The film's duration is one hour and
48 minutes. The film opens in the United States and Canada on June 22.
Related story: "Michael Winterbottom's Heart of A Pearl"
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