'A Mighty Heart'
(Dan Futterman, Angelina Jolie, et al / DVD / R / 2007 / Paramount)
Overview: Based on Mariane Pearl's account of the terrifying and unforgettable story of her husband, Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl's life and death.
DVD Verdict: 'Mighty Heart' measures the instability in the wake of 9/11 when 'Wall Street Journal' reporter, Danny Pearl (Dan Futterman) stationed in Pakistan with his reporter wife, Mariane (Angelina Jolie) is kidnapped when he arranges to have an interview with Sheik Giolani. All sorts of things are happening at that time. American forces have toppled the Taliban in Afghanastan, and resentment is prominent in Pakistan where the heavily muslim nation has a fragile alliance with the U.S. With Danny's Jewish background and the unrest over prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, there are plenty of maligned motives for his capture. In one scene as Danny is being briefed before his interview, a handler warns him that Sheik Giolani doesn't like any questions about terrorism.
The movie splits into two time frames. There's the sequential realization of Danny's absence without communication and the subsequent investigation. Interrupted are the scenes reinacting Danny's progress before he becomes kidnapped. To the film's credit, everything happens at a quick pace, giving us a sense of urgency and never lingering too long over the details. Much of the film reminded me of 'Syriana' and 'Babel,' except for two factor's in this film's favor: 1.) The story is true. 2.) The film seldom overtaxes the audience in the presentation. On the other hand, don't expect to know every factor. There is too much to take in, and it isn't all meant to be memorized. Afterall, laudably the movie spells out that it is a complicated affair; one that demonstrates how hard it was for investigators to trace. I don't know how true-to-life it is, but Mariane who is very much an active part of the investigation writes the connections to key suspects on a dry erase board and draws lines to one another, visibly showing the intricate scheme of her husband's captors.
Complications arise, and of course not all of them should be mentioned, but we see the genius of the captors as each suspect is hunted down in his own home, and one, in particular, reveals how they would each deal with Danny, but send him to a new handler, so each participant would know nothing further. Then they'd have nothing more to tell. Working in Mariane's favor is Pakistani security chief, Randall Bennett, who is effective for hunting down suspects. Also beneficial is Pakistan's counter-terrorism operation. While Danny disappears from the drama (except for media footage which surfaces), Danny is shown to be the steady one with the "Mighty Heart," but Mariane all but matches him. Her pregnancy makes her seem all the more fragile, something she must carry along with her ordeal.
Angelina Jolie plays the strength and vulnerability of her character with great expertise, including a great accent. The supporting characters are always believable, and director Michael Orlandoff keeps the pace brisk enough to avoid becoming tedious. (Some of the actual footage like Colin Powell's news conference about the affair and his contact with Pakastani President Musharaff help make the movie more vivid.) Since it's based on a true story, I'll, nevertheless, forego how it all ends, but Mariane's handling after the ordeal is a fine testament to the human spirit's resiliency. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
"Journey of Passion": The Making of A Mighty Heart
Public Service Announcement
Committee to Protect Journalists