Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
Premise: A dramatization of the search for Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (Dan Futterman) after he was abducted by Islamic militants in Pakistan. The story follows Daniel’s wife, Mariane Pearl (Angelina Jolie), as she works with American and Pakistani officials to find her husband.
What Works: A Mighty Heart is a very well executed film. The film runs like a police procedural, tracking down the witnesses and the clues, and the narrative has great storytelling economy. The film does not get bogged down in too many details, and is able to present the evidence very concisely and efficiently. Angelina Jolie stars as Mariane Pearl and her performance is excellent. She sells the film, carrying Mariane as a dignified woman but also as a human being attempting to make sense of events that are out of her control. A Mighty Heart takes place in Pakistan and is able to use the environment to characterize the film, using the local color. Even when dealing with terrorism, the film is able to stay away from racial stereotypes and its supporting cast are given the same dignity and humanity as Mariane. The film deals with the whole topic very tastefully and is able to dramatize a very sad event in ways that do not sentimentalize or exploit the tragedy but put a human face on it.
What Doesn’t: The film ignores any overt politics, instead going for a recreation of the moments in which the event took place, similar to the style of United 93. While this helps the film navigate a sensitive topic, it may rebuff viewers looking for a more definitive political statement.
Bottom Line: A Mighty Heart is a very good film and a picture of distinction amid post-September 11th cinema. The film’s interpretation of recent history is fair and is able to invoke much more serious discussion of the relationship between the West and the Middle East than other pieces of mass media. Jolie’s performance is very good and the film gives her a chance to remind us that, in spite of her overexposure in the tabloids, she is a very good actress.
Episode: #146 (June 24, 2007)