' Cinema Romantico: A Mighty Heart

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Mighty Heart

Based on the book she wrote, "A Mighty Heart" is the story of Mariane Pearl, the widow of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl who was horrifically murdered after being kidnapped in 2002. If a simple description of the film is what you're looking for I believe I can provide it with three little words - Hard To Watch. Like Paul Greengrass's "United 93", director Michael Winterbottom goes for docu-drama realism with stunning effect. There will be no long-winded monologues here meant to serve as character development. The development will come from the characters' decisions and reactions and that alone.

Right from the start we get a feeling of being overwhelmed and confused. Notice the shots at the beginning with Daniel and Mariane in taxis and out and about in Karachi, Pakistan. They're muddled, the sound on the street and the people around them are loud and disjointed.

When Daniel is taken the film does not follow him and his story in the hands of the kidnappers in any way. It sticks to the homefront, with Mariane and friends of Daniel's from the Wall Street Journal and an American security man and a Pakistani known as the "Captain" as they attempt desperately to piece together whatever information they have to find Daniel. This is the proper decision. Therefore we feel just as confused as the people onscreen. They are left to admittedly ridiculous re-assurances and wondering why information is so hard to come by.

Purely from an elemental standpoint, and nothing more, one may assume how a film maintains suspense when the outcome is known going in. But this film proves what I have felt all along as a cinemaphile. Real suspense comes from slowly becoming aware of what's going to happen.

Now with a movie such as this I'm beyond certain two issues will be raised over and over. 1.) How we can buy Angelina Jolie in the role when she is, of course, the most famous woman on the face of earth? You let yourself go, people, that's how. It's really not that hard at all. And if you do, you'll find yourself rewarded with a performance of remarkable power. Jolie captures a woman with a clear amount of pride and resolution who only loses it (and only briefly) when things become too, too unbearable. Listen to her reaction on the phone when Daniel's parents advise her he's going to be all right. And, quite frankly, I don't want to know in any way, shape or form what personal demons she conjured to pull off the moment when she learns of her husband's fate. Even the most jaded person (unless he's dead) will feel significant tugs on the old heartstrings.

2.) What was Michael Winterbottom trying to "say"? And to that I say, gimme' a break. They may wonder why questions about Daniel Pearl still being in Pakistan when he was are not raised and why the movie ignores an opportunity to perhaps make more of a "political" statement. And it's because the movie is a human story and that is - and always will be - the most important story of all.

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