Angelina Jolie as Mariane Pearl in A Mighty Heart (2007)

A Mighty Movie

I've had "A Mighty Heart" ready to watch for a while but every time I have looked at it something put me off. That something was that to me it sounded like a heavy drama with political undertones with its story of kidnapped and murdered journalist Daniel Pearl, a story which as many will know is a true story. I was wrong because "A Mighty Heart" is a movie almost devoid of politics, instead we have something almost documentary like covering the 9 days from when Daniel was taken to the news that terrorists had killed him arrived in the form of an execution video. It is compelling viewing as we watch the drama unfold with his wife Mariane at the centre of it all surrounded by her journalist friends and Pakistani security forces trying to unravel where Danny had been taken and by who.

The day before he is due to leave Pakistan with his wife Mariane (Angelina Jolie - The Good Shepherd), Wall Street journalist Daniel Pearl (Dan Futterman) has one final interview to do. It is an interview with an Islamic fundamentalist cleric, and wisely Daniel is concerned of the danger but is assured as long as he meets the cleric in a public place there should be no problems. But when it becomes late and Daniel doesn't return home Mariane becomes concerned and along with the Pakistani police, American embassy personnel as well as the FBI the search for Daniel begins especially when it becomes clear he has been taken hostage by terrorists.

Irrfan Khan as Chief Javed Habib in A Mighty Heart (2007)

One of the best things about "A Mighty Heart" is that if you don't know the story of Daniel, his kidnap and murder you don't need to worry because no knowledge is needed. It is credit to director Michael Winterbottom and screenwriter John Orloff that they took Mariane Pearl's own memoir and created a story which managed to convey not only what happened but also got across who the people were involved without it ever feeling long winded. In fact other than a short opening where we meet Daniel just prior to his kidnap he is barely in the movie, all but for flashbacks as Mariane thinks about him yet we quickly feel like we know him, a good man, a loving husband who was a seeker of the truth when it came to what he wrote.

Part of the reason why "A Mighty Heart" doesn't require prior knowledge of the true story is that it focuses on the activities of Mariane, her friends and the police taking us from immediately after Daniel goes missing and Mariane's immediate concern. From then on we are with her for the next 9 days, watching as bit by bit they close in on the terrorists who have kidnapped Daniel. We watch as they follow a phone trail of calls to build connections, follow data packets from the terrorist's demands via email to close in all the time Mariane and her journalist friends helping to piece it all together. It's not crime scene investigation but it has a more raw element of that and the rawness comes in the applied tactics of the Pakistani security force as they interrogate a person for information. You don't see anything but it is most certainly implied that torture was used.

Now whilst all of this is playing out, the getting ever closer to the terrorists we also get the focus on Mariane the person and how her friends supported her especially as she was pregnant at the time. We witness how knowing the stress and strain is causing issues they find ways to help her through, by having meals together and generally caring for her with out molly coddling her and it makes it very real. But we also see the immense strength of the woman whose kindness, generosity and honesty even when the news of Daniel's death reaches her is amazing.

As such "A Mighty Heart" is a movie which ends up being about Angelina Jolie as Mariane and she does a brilliant job. Jolie delivers every ounce of a woman who keeps on going in the belief that they will find Daniel, yet at the same time you can feel that underlying fear she keeps in check. Yet we see her outpouring of raw emotion when she receives the bad news and it is an amazingly powerful scene but nowhere near as powerful as the scenes which follow which demonstrate the amazing heart and strength of Mariane. Jolie is supported by some terrific performances especially from Irrfan Khan as Pakistan's CID Chief Javed Habib who delivers both the coldness of a man who deals with terrorists but also an underlying kindness towards Mariane.

What this all boils down to is that "A Mighty Heart" is an above average movie which does a good job of telling a very emotional true story without feeling like it is taking a side, instead feeling almost documentary like. Maybe for some that will feel wrong and maybe for those who are more familiar with the true story of journalist Daniel Pearl it will feel like it is too basic but for those who don't will watch a movie which is captivating, dramatic and naturally emotional.