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Mighty Heart [Blu-ray]  [US Import]
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A Mighty Heart comes at the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl with a de-glamorised intensity: it's not a melodrama about Pearl's kidnapping and killing at the hands of Islamic terrorists, but a near-documentary about the process of trying to find him. Thus the centre of the film is not Pearl (Dan Futterman) but his wife Mariane (Angelina Jolie), a cool customer who manages--almost--to maintain her calm throughout the weeks-long ordeal. Director Michael Winterbottom is less overtly political here than in his Road to Guantanamo, although the reactions of various authorities, from U.S. officials to local Pakistani cops, give the flavour of different attitudes and approaches. Jolie, playing the Dutch-Afro-Cuban Mariane Pearl, does nicely at playing her character's control (others marvel at her sangfroid), yet she remains recognisably human throughout. By no means a star turn, the movie leaves Mariane for long stretches, and other actors shine: Irfan Khan as a detective, Denis O'Hare as Daniel Pearl's Washington Post editor, and Will Patton as a stymied diplomat. As engrossing as the movie generally is, the point of emphasising the police-procedural method is sometimes obscure. Oddly enough, by rejecting the usual string-pulling of conventional Hollywood drama, A Mighty Heart ends up without a strong point of view--as good as its pieces are. --Robert Horton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Angelina Jolie gives a capable performance as Mariane Pearl as she moves from hope to despair and Irfan Khan is impressive as the police captain leading the investigation. Archie Panjabi also provides good support as an Indian journalist out of place in a hostile Pakistan. The scene where the police captain interviews Sheikh Omar (played by the excellent Aly Khan) provides a small, but important insight into the callousness of religious extremism.
Understated acting combined with natural dialogues give this film an authenticity that ultimately makes for some uncomfortable viewing. There is no political point scoring or moralising and this reinforces the senselessness of Danny Pearl's gruesome murder, which thankfully we are spared from witnessing.
Watching "Heart" is gut wrenching from the get go. Winterbottom's cinematography is gritty, bearing a strong stylistic resembelance to his film "Welcome to Sarajevo", made a decade earlier (1997). From the opening news footage to the grainy shots of Karachi, to the naturalistic performances from the ensemble cast, the whole film feels uncomfortably real and naturalistic. A far cry from Hollywood (and, importantly, fictitious) movies such as "Proof of Life", "Heart" avoids crassness and sheen. Jerky handheld camera shots, married to some excellent location shooting, only serve to emphasise the claustrophobia that this is a true story being told.
But it is Jolie that shines. Whatever glossy trash she might have under her belt, she is a revelation here, playing Mariane Pearl (Daniel's wife) with an understated strength, resolve and dignity. When the closing scenes arive, as they inevitably must, and Jolie uncorks her emotions letting them tumble out in the privacy of her bedroom, it is nothing short of heart breaking.
As such watching "A Mighty Heart" is an intense experience. Traumatic, deeply harrowing and thoroughly grief-stricken from the outset, this film remains however essential viewing. In these post-9/11 days cinema that intelligently explores jihadism and the "War on Terror" have a special place of importance, and this is maybe where "Heart" succeeds the most: it is both political and personal; a true story that teaches us. And, indeed, the fact that the shadow of Guantanamo stands long and hard over this film (though mentioned only in passing in the script itself) should cause those of us in the West to consider what we really believe about kidnapping, torture, and people.
Michael Winterbottom directs events in a quasi-documentary style which makes it all the more real. Within minutes of the film opening you forget all the celebrity Angelina Jolie generates and just concentrate on her terrifically real performance as the widow in such extraordinary circumstances.
The film flicks from Mariane to the investigators and to Danny in the events preceding his death. When Danny dies it is handled in such an emotional and sensitive way. Its hard to remember another true to life story that generates the same amount of exhaustive emotional effort on the viewers part.
Brilliant performances and a harrowingly real this film should not be missed by any film fans all over.
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