Admittedly, I was nervous to read the reviews for A Mighty Heart, a movie based on the horrific story of journalist Daniel Pearl who was kidnapped in Pakistan in 2002 and ultimately beheaded. The real-life story is heartbreaking, and I worried that a movie might trivialize rather than honor Daniel Pearl's story.

So far, the reviews have been positive with critics giving kudos for the respectful way in which the Pearls' story is told, though also mentioning that the movie presents moments of discomfort having to do with such ripped-from-the-headlines tales of torture and terrorism. Jolie is being lauded for her sensitive and accurate portrayal of Mariane Pearl, tasked as she was with the precarious challenge of playing a person who is still alive. So far, the only reviewers to write about A Mighty Heart have been from Variety and Hollywood Reporter — though over on Popwatch, the reviewer was too moved to write a review yet. UPDATE: New excerpt from the Guardian's review after the jump.

“But this is ultimately — and very intimately — Mariane Pearl's story, and much of it rests on Jolie, who fits comfortably into the naturalistic mold that shapes the entire ensemble... this isn't the sort of commanding star turn in which the performer vanishes behind a well-known celebrity mask, but rather a subdued, carefully considered portrait of a woman caught between premature grief and persistent hope.

Jolie plays Mariane as sharp and prickly, but also highly principled and completely devoted to her husband. Wisely, Winterbottom opts to shoot her more high-pitched outbursts from a distance or in near-darkness, as if refusing to milk more histrionics than necessary."

More thoughts if you

Hollywood Reporter:
"The film alarmingly implies that torture works when one suspect reveals names under duress and watching the no-holds-barred approach of the Pakistani authorities on a raid, the [U.S. diplomatic security specialist Randall] Bennett declares, "I love this town!"

For the most part, however, the film reflects the dispassionate view espoused by Mariane Pearl, who sees that it is misery that breeds terrorism. Jolie plays her with respect and a firm grasp on a difficult accent influenced by France and Cuba."

Guardian Unlimited:
"I can't help thinking a bolder type of movie might have made Daniel the centre of the action, and stayed with him, in real time as it were, until his horrifying execution - in the manner of Paul Greengrass's United 93. Michael Winterbottom evidently wanted something different: a human-interest study of Mariane, left alone to deal with the unthinkable horror of widowhood. Jolie gives an intelligent and restrained performance, but with her frizzy hairdo, dark-brown contact lenses and French accent, she is encumbered with surface detail and we never get inside her head or her heart.

Compared to In This World or The Road to Guantánamo, this story of Mariane Pearl is strangely underpowered, telling us at great length things that we know already. I wondered if the director's heart was entirely in it."