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A Mighty Heart

September 5, 2010

A Mighty Heart (2007)
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Actors: Angelia Jolie, Irrfan Khan, Archie Panjabi

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Synopsis: American journalist Daniel Pearl (Dan Futterman) is kidnapped in Pakistan, and his wife Mariane (Angelina Jolie) and the local police begin a frantic search for him….

Review: Despite all the worthy liberal intentions of this film, it’s not immediately obvious to ascertain quite what its ‘take’ on the Daniel Pearl story actually is. A Mighty Heart is at once a police procedural drama about Pearl’s kidnapping, an ode to the Pearls’ marriage, a discourse on Pakistan, as well as a celebration of the stoicism and grace of Mariane Pearl. It all comes wrapped up in an earnest verité style, reminding me of Michael Winterbottom’s Welcome to Sarajevo which similarly seemed to get excited by its incendiary, cutting-edge subject matter and in marrying a personal journalistic story with wider commentary on a major international conflict. It is the focus on Mariane Pearl – as betrayed by the film’s title – that is perhaps most problematic. Winterbottom never fully navigates the slippery notion of how, and indeed if, Mariane Pearl’s grief should be aestheticised. While admittedly a horrifying ordeal to have endured, the fact her victimhood was essentially passive and circumstantial does not make the focus on her bouts of suffering and subsequent grace necessarily dramatic, and particularly with the casting of a faux naturalistic Angelina Jolie to play Pearl, it’s hard to escape the feeling that there’s a slightly unpalatable air of sanctimony to the whole proceedings. (September 2009)

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