A Mighty Heart

Movies, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
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Journalist Mariane Pearl has never seen the video of the barbaric murder of her husband, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, at the hands of Islamic jihadists. Undoubtedly, a baser director than Michael Winterbottom would have shown, if only for a nanosecond, the decapitation that’s still only a mouse click away. Taking his cue from Mariane’s memoir, Winterbottom (no stranger to the “War on Terror”—see last year’s The Road to Guantánamo) wisely structures A Mighty Heart like a procedural. The desperate hunt to find Danny Pearl (Futterman) unfolds as a rapid-paced accumulation of details: cell-phone towers, ISPs, color copiers, the names and arrows added to the dry-erase board that serves as an information map for Mariane (Jolie) and her husband’s WSJ colleague Asra Q. Nomani (Panjabi).

For all those (myself included) who were highly skeptical about casting globe-trotting mama Jolie as the astoundingly dignified Mariane Pearl: The actor is more than good. The wig, the skin bronzer, even the spooky brown contacts quickly diminish in their weirdness after the first ten minutes, when we’re completely won over by Jolie’s conviction. Playing someone reared in Paris, Jolie’s lingual skills are extremely limited—her only French is “Merci,” “Au revoir,” and “C’est bon?” But again, even language is rendered completely insignificant during the scene that may be the highlight of Jolie’s career: a piercing wail after Mariane learns that Danny has been killed. Never showboaty, it’s a cry that articulates the unspeakable horror of a personal tragedy in a world gone crazy.

By: Melissa Anderson

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Cast and crew

Director: Michael Winterbottom
Screenwriter: John Orloff
Cast: Angelina Jolie
Dan Futterman
Archie Panjabi
Irfan Khan
Will Paton
Denis O'Hare
Adnan Siddiqui
Gary Wilmes
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