A Mighty Heart, Angelina Jolie portrays French journalist
Marianne Pearl and in the process puts on a great performance after
years of coasting on her fame. The film is based on the true story
of Marianne and her husband Daniel Pearl (Dan Futterman), the South
Asia Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal who was kidnapped
by extremists with links to Al Qaeda and was subsequently beheaded.
At its core, A Mighty Heart is a reality based conspiracy
thriller. Through various investigations, a number of unsavoury
characters, shady sources and corrupt officials are arrested and
interrogated in regards to Pearl's whereabouts, as a heavily pregnant
Marianne impatiently awaits new information, as her journalist friends
set up shop in the dining room, scouring the internet for clues
while relying on their mobiles as their main source of communication.
As Pearl, Jolie delivers a great performance. An actress with unparalleled
fame and media presence, Jolie is able to convince that she is Pearl
and not just a popular figure in (light) black face. She portrays
Pearl's strength, spirituality, and frustrations extremely well,
and raises the bar in on screen breakdowns in a powerful scene.
Archie Panjabi - who played a similar role in Constant Gardener
- is good if not a little condescending as Indian journalist Asra
Q. Nomani, and Indian actor Irfan Khan is great as a no-nonsense
In a cast of characters from various countries and cultures, the
Americans (with the exception of Daniel Pearl) come off as an irritating
bunch prone to melodramatic tendencies, with journalists John Bussey
(Denis O'Hare) and John Skelton (Demetri Goritsas) taking the prize
in the drama queen awards. An FBI agent played by Jillian Armenante
bullies the local law enforcement whom she considers suspect.
Both Daniel and Marianne were living in Pakistan at the time, covering
the war in neighbouring Afghanistan. To add realism to this, the
film was shot in location in India and Pakistan, capturing the chaotic
environment of those countries. This includes the anti-American
sentiments felt post 9/11, and the anti-Semitic sentiments felt
by many in the substantially Muslim country, both factors which
did not bode will for Daniel Pearl who was an American Jew.
The film makes numerous references to Guantanamo Bay and the mistreatment
of prisoners in the U.S. run facility (director Michael Winterbottom
co-directed Road to Guantanamo), and also looks at
the intense media presence which surrounded Pearl's kidnapping.
Winterbottom has implemented a documentary feel to the movie. Shot
with digital film, there is a slight shake to the camera which creates
a fly on the wall perspective to these events. However, this is
quickly marred by an over abundance of unceasing quick cuts by editor
Peter Christelis, the movie feeling more like a colossal slide show
than a realistic portrait of a tragic situation. Restraint was definitely
needed in this area. Also, the subtitles are extremely small, which
is frustrating considering that half of the film's dialogue is in
As a whole, A Mighty Heart is a very good film impaired by
several easily fixable elements. The main draw here is Angelina
Jolie, who does not disappoint. Hopefully she will continue to do
more quality character work such as this.