A Mighty Heart

A Mighty Heart documents a significant and harrowing snapshot of Mariane Pearl's life; the few months in 2002 in which she and husband Daniel dominated headlines worldwide. Mariane (Jolie) was expecting their first child when Daniel (Futterman) was kidnapped in Pakistan while researching for The Wall Street Journal. He was eventually murdered by terrorists, the proof horrifically captured in a film that his widow will never watch. It's a difficult story to retell, especially as those events are so recent, but Mariane wants this story out there; she's still an inspirational font of positivity.

Director Winterbottom takes the audience and entrenches us within the absolute bustle and chaos of Karachi, a city where people overlap and finding one person would almost certainly be impossible. Realism flows throughout this film, the truth of the story taking over and reflected in the filmmaking techniques; a jittery handheld camera takes in much of the story. People speak over one another, they make mistakes, officials are not the Hollywood straigh-cut good or bad characters and the occasional glimmer of subtle humour provides occasional relief, reminding us of the characters' humanity. Notably, the film is fantastically cast, and the supporting actors turn in performances that are predominantly of as much quality as the leads. Jolie's Mariane is the calm among the chaos; a strong, intelligent and quietly optimistic woman methodically working through the snippets of information she receives (from the many different authorities involved) with her journalist friends.

Jolie is superb in this role, the nature of the woman she is portraying allows her to internalise much of her performance, which gives those scenes portraying the searing pain of her loss all the more impact. Hunched over in shadow, screaming until she is hoarse, her emotion bursts through the screen powerfully; even though her back is to the camera. Jolie keeps this hectic film and its intense rush of events centred, with not only an Oscar-worthy performance, but one that truly honours the disposition of the woman she is playing.
SECOND OPINION | Cassam Looch ***
Angelina Jolie is the undoubted star of this film, but give major credit to Winterbottom’s tight and precise direction in conveying both the emotion and chaos of the situation. This is one half emotional drama and one half a big screen adaptation of cult late-night TV favourite Karachi Cops. If there are problems with the script it maybe to do with the leanings of the source material based on Pearl’s own book of her husband's kidnap and subsequent murder. Hence there are moments when ‘the war on terror’ becomes a personal tragedy, which is fair enough if it is balanced by personal stories from the other side — unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Everyone who is ‘good’ is either American or on the Americans' ‘side’ and everyone else is the enemy. The film is at pains to make clear that there are good people from Pakistan and the rest of the world... but they all support the same team. As an overall essay then on global politics this is one to avoid, but if the personal story is what you want then there is little else that is better. Jolie is superb from the moment she appears on screen, and reminds the viewer she is a very talented actress, Winterbottom’s major triumph is that he is the one that jolts our memory...

Official Site
A Mighty Heart at IMDb
• Read an INTERVIEW with star Angelina Jolie

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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