A Mighty Heart ***
Directed by Michael Winterbottom
Written by John Orloff, based on the book by Mariane Pearl
Dan Futterman as Daniel Pearl
Angelina Jolie as Mariane Pearl
Irfan Khan as Captain
Archie Panjabi as Asra Q. Nomani
Will Patton as Randall Bennett
Gary Wilmes as Steve LeVine
Denis O'Hare as John Bussey
Mohammed Afzal as Shabir
Perrine Moran as Ruth Pearl
Jeffry Kaplow as Judea Pearl
108 Minutes(Rated R for Language).
"A Mighty Heart" is the result of Angelina Jolie's recent antics, and is more proof that we should not judge actors by their personal lives. While she may be in the news every other day because she adopted some kid or stole some others actress' husband, it is still clear that she can turn in some fantastic work, and that is what Angelina Jolie does during every second of "A Mighty Heart." And while you may not agree with what she does with her life, there is no denying that the final few minutes of this film will break your heart many times over. "A Mighty Heart" is a docudrama from Mr. Experiment-Michael Winterbottom. Winterbottom always manages to make something different-kind of like a British Marc Forester. He'll make a science fiction film ("Code 46), than a strong comedy ("Tristram Shandy") and then a sexually graphic music film ("9 Songs.") And after his great docudrama last year "The Road to Guantanamo" it is clear that he was the right choice for this, and his constantly moving camera and clear look for every shot makes this extremely realistic, as if you're actually in the middle of the action.
Based on the early 2002 incident, "A Mighty Heart" follows Mariane and Daniel Pearl, a marriage journalist couple. She is pregnant, and after 9/11 they travel to Pakistan to do some stories. They are only a day away from leaving for good, and Daniel just needs one last interview, with religious leader Shabir, but he never returns back home after the interview-if it ever even took place. Mariane becomes worried, and after she receives faxes with his tied up in a chair it becomes a constant investigation to ensure that he is returned safely. And while the odds seem to be in favor of him not having a safe return-Pearl was also a one hundred percent Jewish man-Mariane never seems to give up hope, and remains constantly cool and collectant during the entire investigation, until his eventual murder when she snaps.
This is not nearly a perfect film. Winterbottom makes this more about the investigation than about the actual woman, which it should be based on. The mighty heart in the films title could refer to Mariane, who never gave up in spite of all the throwbacks that came her way-even though she titled her book "A Mighty Heart" based on her husband. Jolie really does get into this character very well, and sadly the screenplay never really focuses on her until towards the end. While the first three quarters are a perfectly fine reconstruction of the investigation, filled with little details that I am sure were not known while the investigation was happening, the movie does not have any heart, and you remain pretty much distant from all the characters. If it weren't for the emotion, all given by Jolie, tacked onto the final twenty minutes, right after Pearl is declared dead (by beheading) I would have felt only like an observer without a care for anyone here. Even Daniel Pearl, played by Dan Futterman, had a good actor playing him, but was underwritten to only a couple of scenes, pretty much all in flashback.
I suppose in the end I could commend "A Mighty Heart" for showcasing that Angelina Jolie is more than just an "in the news, always" figure, and for Winterbottom's pretty flawless directing skills. He really does know how to get the viewer in the scene, no matter what is happening. But sadly the screenplay does not successfully find a focus for the story. It drifts too much from being a simple little detective story, followed by a political piece, and than the story of this woman. It tries to be all three, but I could never tell whose or which story they wished to tell. It's a good film, but for storytelling skills, the script needs a little more work.