Written by John Orloff
Directed by Michael Winterbottom
Running Time: 1:40
A Mighty Heart was a well acted film, but one that never got too deep into the real story of Daniel Pearl.
In January of 2002 while in Pakistan, Daniel Pearl went to go interview a reported terrorist about reputed shoe bomber Richard Reid. Pearl was kidnapped and subsequently beheaded on a video leaked by the terrorists onto the internet. A Mighty Heart is the story of his wife Mariane and her agonizing struggles to find her husband after the kidnapping.
I guess the biggest problem with A Mighty Heart is that it was more the story of Mariane and not about Daniel. For what it was, it was a good movie, but I had been hoping for more insight into what happened to Daniel and more about his life leading up to his death. I realize there are some things we'll never know, and some things we may not want to know, but Mariane's life wasn't all that interesting. Had this been a fictional movie about a random journalist who was kidnapped, and the filmmakers decided to make it more about his wife and what she has to go through, that was be one thing. But the Daniel Pearl story is fairly well known, so having a movie that was about his wife wasn't as compelling as it could have been. The movie would have been more interesting if there had been more background on Daniel and why he was in Pakistan and how he got there, what his inspirations were and why he would be willing to risk harm with a pregnant wife in tow. While I know the basics of the story of Daniel Pearl, I didn't know the man himself and I think the movie should have allowed us to go deeper into the person and allow us to feel something for him. When his death was finally announced in the film, I didn't feel shock or hurt for him, I felt bad for all the people who had spent all their time and energy looking for him. I felt bad for his wife who was so brave while holding out hope for the safe return of her husband. But I should have felt sadness that a man died, but as it was a man I never got to know, I didn't feel much for him.
That being said, the performances in the film were very strong. Angelina Jolie has always been a tremendous actress, but her social life has taken over as the dominant part of her life and so her acting has been relegated to the back seat. Her transformation into the Dutch-Jewish-Cuban Mariane was amazing. The beautiful woman who used to carry a vial of blood around her neck was nowhere to be seen. Instead we got the pregnant wife who was desperately holding on to any shred of hope that her husband might be alive. Irrfan Khan as the Captain and leader of the group of men looking for Daniel was quiet in his strength; an imposing figure because of his personality. The rest of the supporting cast held up well against the powerful performance of Jolie, but this was definitely her movie to carry.
The movie was shot with a strong urgency, with every moment keeping you on the edge of your seat. Although we know how the story ends long before the movie starts, there is still that hope that maybe this time the story ends differently. We're always in the middle of everything and feel like we're part of the action. It allows us to get close to the characters, even if it keeps us away from learning more about the man at the center of the story. The film has an overall look of hopelessness, which adds to the sorrow the characters feel when the end finally arrives. We're never shown what happens to Daniel, but the description is enough to send shudders through any normal human.
The DVD didn't make the movie any better than it was in theaters. The movie plays well enough on a smaller screen since the story is more a personal one. But the extras are few and far between. There's a standard making-of documentary a documentary on the Committee to Protect Journalists, and a PSA from Christiane Amanpour for the Daniel Pearl Foundation. Amanpour sounds much too excited in my opinion, but maybe that's just me. So this movie is only worth picking up for the movie itself because the extras don't add any value to the DVD.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I thought A Mighty Heart was a well-made, well-acted film, but the story could have gone deeper into who Daniel Pearl was. I know this was based on the book by Mariane, and there are a lot of things we don't know, but we could have learned more about Daniel's past to help understand why his death was so tragic, and not just a random event of a person being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
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