Since 9/11 the world has been moving very fast. The news is filled with crisis after crisis, all of which should have an individual face but we’re often left with just little soundbits and chunks of interviews with officials and spokesmen who have a definite idea on how they want the story at hand to be covered. I believe that the real story of the world today isn’t being told, despite the millions of blogs and websites that claim to be empowering. So when a story with a personal face comes along, I want to listen. I want to feel like I have a better understanding of the world around me more than the 6:00 news can offer. It’s just unfortunate that when a story finally is able to be told that it’s under the most tragic of circumstances. Such is the case of Michael Winterbottom’s A Mighty Heart, the adaptation of Mariane Pearl’s memoirs surrounding the death of her husband.
Daniel Pearl (Dan Futtermen) was a journalist for the “Wall Street Journal.” He and his wife (Angelina Jolie) went to the Middle East to capture what was happening in the post-9/11 world. According to the film, Daniel wanted truth more than glamour. He was about telling the story that was rather than the one that should be. Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and later killed by his captors. A Mighty Heart attempts to put together the mystery and the tragedy through the eyes of his pregnant wife.
I have to say I was a little skeptical of A Mighty Heart at first. It had the appearance of a wannabe prestige film, an awards vehicle for its star and not much else. But then there’s Michael Winterbottom (Code 46, 24 Hour Party People) directing. Thankfully this isn’t an awards hunter but rather an astutely chaotic look at politics and red tape without judging.
Although I don’t see this is awards fodder, Jolie is still excellent as Mariane Pearl. She shows tremendous strength and builds immense sympathy in doing so. Part of it is that most are likely to know the outcome ahead of time as the story was all over the news in 2002. So because you know Daniel’s fate, you can see how much Mariane has to bottle things in. For the first three quarters of the film she shows little emotion. So when the inevitable boiling point hits, it’s even more powerful than it might have otherwise been.
Within the tragedy, Winterbottom is able to evoke deep feelings of love through flashbacks that put together the high points in Daniel and Mariane’s life together. Winterbottom’s structure is one of a shaky camera seamlessly blending time and place. In doing so he is able to pack more tension into the narrative and comment on the chaos without necessarily taking sides.
A Mighty Heart is a film of tragedy rather than a political statement. It may be set within a politically charged backdrop but the strength comes in the distance Winterbottom maintains from external forces. Instead he explores the human side of the murder. A Mighty Heart is a powerful film on all accounts, something that brings a human face to such a collective time of confusion.
A Mighty Heart DVD Review
A Mighty Heart comes to DVD with a gorgeous enhanced widescreen picture. The 5.1 Dolby Surround audio does an excellent job of capturing the busy streets of the Middle East and the chaos in the Pearl home. There’s also dubbed French and Spanish tracks and English, Spanish and French subtitles.
As far as bonus features go, this DVD is a disappointment. “A Journey of Passion: The Making of A Mighty Heart” looks at the background of the story and the making of the film. Running about 30 minutes, it’s informative but follows the same format of most “making of” featurettes. “Committee to Protect Journalists” is a short featurette on what it’s like to be a journalist in a dangerous environment, obviously focusing largely on Pearl. The DVD also has a public service announcement about the dangers international journalists face and previews for Year of the Dog, Margot at the Wedding, An Arctic Tale, Stardust and The Kite Runner.
A Mighty Heart Gallery