A Mighty Heart


Should you be so inclined, it won’t take you long to find the infamous video of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl being beheaded by Pakistani militants on the internet. But you won’t see it in A Mighty Heart, Michael Winterbottom’s tense reconstruction of Pearl’s 2002 kidnapping and murder, and the film is all the better for it. Concentrating instead on his pregnant wife Mariane’s attempts to secure his release in the weeks leading up to his death, the Road To Guantanamo director has fashioned a grim, taut docudrama with the urgency, verisimilitude and forensic eye for detail that have become his stocks in trade. By ensuring Angelina Jolie’s Mariane remains just one part of his tight-knit, fluid ensemble, meanwhile, he stops her Hollywood persona unbalancing a film that, like United 93 before it, manages to find dignity and humanity even amidst the horror and heartbreak.

Given Jolie’s involvement in front of the camera and Brad Pitt’s behind it, there was always a danger of this well-meant project becoming just one more episode in the Brangelina soap opera. What mitigates against this is the startling assurance of Jolie’s performance, an accomplishment all the more impressive given the myriad obstacles (baby bump, darkened skin, an obscure Franco-Cuban accent) she had to negotiate. It’s undoubtedly her best work since Girl, Interrupted, though it’s merely on a level with a cast that, from Will Patton’s ineffectual diplomat and Irrfan Khan’s dedicated police officer to Dan Futterman as Danny himself, doesn’t put a foot wrong.

Location footage taken of a teeming Karachi, meanwhile, casts the city itself as a player in the unfolding saga, its bustling chaos a visual correlative to the Jihadist madness that will shortly claim Pearl as its next victim. As climaxes go the payoff is one hell of a downer – and it could be the reason for the movie’s lacklustre business Stateside. Let it deter you, though, and you will miss out on a vital, fiercely intelligent thriller whose integrity can hardly be faulted.



A fitting tribute to courage under fire and stoicism in the face of senseless brutality, Winterbottom conjures up a perfect marriage of subject and technique. Good also to see Jolie acting for a change...

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User Reviews

    • tommy6858

      Oct 22nd 2009, 15:17


      one of the greatest and humane films i have seen in my life. i really do think everyone should see this although it is not for all tastes, especially the last half hour. Not only does it deal with the modern society's current affairs, but it also gives the viewer an insight into the optimism and courage of a battling woman (the always brilliant Angelina Jolie) when all hope is crumbling around her. This is the best film i have seen in a while and it's also great to see a movie with some intelligence behind it, not something you get to see that often now seeing as it appears hollywood has hired a bunch of chimpanzee writers to blurt out a number of no-brainers each week. This must be down to the fact that this is directed by Michael Winterbottom, that furthers my theory even more that the best film-makers out there at the moment are all british. Don't believe me? Just take a look at the highest earning and best movies of the last 10 years and you'd be surprised how many were made by british people. and who have America got to front them? Michael f*****g Bay, what a joke.

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