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A Mighty Heart: Sensitive and Weighty

As you could probably guess, A Mighty Heart is difficult to watch. Knowing the true story on which the movie is based — and knowing the outcome of this story — causes a dense, heavy sense of impending doom to sit like a rock in one's belly throughout the film's duration. In fact, there were times when I wondered what I was doing watching this horrifyingly sad tale. In the end, however, I was glad I did. The story is an important one.

In 2002, journalists Daniel and Mariane Pearl were reporting from Pakistan. Five months into Mariane's pregnancy, the two decided to leave Pakistan, but Daniel had one more interview he wanted to conduct. He left for the interview, and disappeared. Kidnappers contacted Mariane and her team of journalist allies and U.S. officials, demanding the release of certain Guantanamo prisoners in return for Daniel's release. Of course, this is not the end of the story, so

Ultimately, when the prisoner exchange did not happen, the kidnappers beheaded Daniel and sent out a video of the brutal act. Daniel's story received widespread media coverage, and the video of his murder was sent around the Internet. Mariane Pearl went on to write the book A Mighty Heart in the hopes of giving her son Adam the chance to know a father who died only months before Adam was born.

Thankfully, the Hollywood types did not take this opportunity to gratuitously show the real footage or even reenactments of the footage, perhaps because Mariane herself has never watched the video. Still, I was concerned that the movie was going to pull every manipulative string it could to emotionally destroy its audience members, focusing on graphic violence more than was necessary. Instead, director Michael Winterbottom set out to simply tell Mariane Pearl's story, which he does with honesty and compassion.

Winterbottom's true-to-life direction style is exhausting. There are countless scenes of the bustling city of Karachi, so many car horns blasting and jostling camera work as the characters race to find Daniel that it leaves viewers dizzy with frustration and helplessness. This is not a glamorous story, and it's not glamorized. There is even a rather alarming suggestion that torture is a viable — and successful — means of deriving information. Winterbottom neither sugarcoats nor does he go too far in revealing the graphic horrors of this story. In aiming for such truthful storytelling, he also got a great deal out of Jolie. His way of following actors closely with the camera and encouraging improvisational behavior works superbly on film: Jolie's aggravation is extremely palpable.

Yet viewers going solely to gawk at Jolie in her brown contacts and wig will be sorely missing the point. Yes, she's remarkable at capturing Mariane's struggle and strength, in addition to her unique accent and charisma. But this movie isn't about Angelina Jolie. In fact, I left with the sense that many of the little things in life that we concentrate on are painfully insignificant.

Photos courtesy of Paramount Vantage

hollylikespretty hollylikespretty 10 years
Amazing. The movie is compelling, beautiful, and moving. Please go see this movie and support a movie made about something signifigant. Angelina does a wonderful job. The directors, producers, casting directors, everyone who worked on this movie brought a tough story into the light and should be praised for it.
MisterPinkNoTip MisterPinkNoTip 10 years
i saw it and it was amazing. i liked everything about it. especially angelina's acting and the documentary style filmmaking
LaLaLaurie06 LaLaLaurie06 10 years
I'm sure this will be very good. I read a review, though, that said that Angelina Jolie kind of stole the spotlight throughout the whole movie, especially in parts where we should have been focusing on the situation at hand instead of on Angelina. I hope I can look past her and focus on the story.
figurine figurine 10 years
Hey, good review. I won't see the movie until this fall, but totally looking forward to it.
Daisy6264 Daisy6264 10 years
I'll see this movie.
SassAndBide SassAndBide 10 years
hate her or love her, you have to admit, she's a good actress
Bksuga Bksuga 10 years
this is a movie i would watch with my mother and sisters. Cant wait to see it!!!!
Butrfly4404 Butrfly4404 10 years
I've been waiting for this, too. I think I'm going to have to wait for netflix because The Man will not go see it in the theater. I've been reading Pearl's writing in Glamour for some time now and she's just a remarkable woman. I really wanted to get the book first anyway, so maybe I will do that while I wait for DVD. Glamour also did an article in the last couple months with Jolie and Pearl about how they are such good friends now and said something that made me want to go see this even more: they are both non-partisan. That made me really look forward to it with the hopes that they will focus on her story, not just the war.
Hollywoodjess Hollywoodjess 10 years
I have been waiting to see this for some time now because I admire her acting skills and even the clips I have seen are dead on. I just have to wait until I am in a mood where Im emotionally stable to see it : /
beingtazim beingtazim 10 years
what a good review. i can't wait to see it. thanks.
mello mello 10 years
I can't wait to see this.
Linda-McP Linda-McP 10 years
Great review, Buzz. You are so right to point out that viewers need to focus on the power of the story and not on Jolie; the film does help put in perspective what truly matters in life.
thehabra thehabra 10 years
I can't wait to see this, and it saddens me when people completely miss the point of the movie and instead choose to focus on the race of Angelina Jolie.
DesignRchic DesignRchic 10 years
I'm planning on seeing this with my best friend next week. I'll bring tissues.
Renees3 Renees3 10 years
I cannot wait to see this. I tear up everytime I think about their son, not knowing his father and her being pregnant throughout it all. I think Angie will do great and hopefully it'll open up peoples eyes.
crispet1 crispet1 10 years
I cant wait to Netflix this!
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