A Mighty Heart, directed by Michael Winterbottom, starring Angelina Jolie, Dan Futterman, Archie Panjabi. Based on the book “A Mighty Heart: the Brave Life and Death of my Husband Danny Pearl”, by Mariane Pearl and Sarah Crichton.
When I heard that a PR firm was distributing passes to a pre-release screening of a film about Daniel Pearl, I thought: this is the last film I want to see. Free or not. Angelina Jolie or not.
As you probably know, Pearl was the Jewish Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped in Pakistan in 2002 by al-Qaeda linked jihadists and beheaded shortly thereafter.
I was afraid of two things when I sat down in the theater. One was that the film would show Pearl’s murder, or even dwell on his captivity. I’ve forced myself to watch enough Jihadist footage to last several lifetimes; I don’t need any more.
The other was that it would have a sappy ‘message’ about the ambiguity of good and evil. Or even one about how we are all somehow responsible for terrorism.
But none of this happened. The film focused on Mariane Pearl, Daniel’s wife, during the month between his kidnapping and the appearance of the videotape of his murder. It didn’t editorialize, exaggerate, introduce irrelevant subplots, invent snappy dialog, have a “love interest” (except of course Mariane and Danny) or include gratuitous violence or sex. The bloodiest scene showed the birth of their son Adam, three months after Danny’s death.
The film simply and sparely portrayed Mariane’s experiences and her feelings, the efforts to trace the kidnappers and find Danny, the ups and downs of false hopes and the final, terrible loss.
Jolie’s acting, the Pakistani street scenes, and the lack of clichés give the film an authenticity so often lacking in Hollywood products.
Is it a good film? Yes. Just don’t plan to do anything for a couple of hours afterwards.