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A Mighty Heart
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A Mighty Heart – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

This is the true story of what happened to American journalist Daniel Pearl (Futterman) and his French journalist wife Mariane (Jolie) while they were working in Pakistan after the September the Eleventh attacks on New York. The film is based on her diaries.
The trip is nearing and end and Daniel wants to get one last interview with a fundamentalist Sheikh. His contacts have spent time setting up a meeting. A cab picks him up. He’s never seen again.
An incident room is set up in Mariane’s front room, manned by local police, Pakistani secret service agents, US embassy officials and Daniel’s editor from the Wall Street Journal.
Like an episode of Without A Trace, the chain of events and potential suspects are drawn up on a white-board as the investigators travel around Karachi, questioning anyone who might know who’s holding Daniel, where and why.
Days pass. The tension grows. But there’s no news.
Then, they receive an email of Daniel, with a gun to his head. Then another. And another. The kidnappers make demands that the Americans simply cannot keep.
The search continues until next, they’re sent a video-tape – showing the reporter being murdered, on camera.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

OK, it might sound like I’ve given away the ending, but unless you were on the moon in early 2002, you couldn’t have missed the horrific nature of the story of Daniel Pearl – the first victim of the new jihadi terrorist practice of kidnapping westerners and decapitating them on film.
This, then, renders A Mighty Heart rather weak as a thriller, as you know exactly where it’s going – so at times where the searchers have moments of optimism, we can’t share it, meaning we don’t go on the same emotional ride as they do.
So despite a kidnapping, secret agents and a brutal killing, this isn’t a thriller, but a drama.
Michael Winterbottom creates as much tension as he can in the circumstances and Angelina Jolie goes from stoicism to howling pain and back to stoicism effectively.
The film also captures the almost inconceivable hustle-and-bustle of daily life in Karachi and makes it seem remarkable that any crimes ever get solved in such a heaving city, serving only to confirm the futility of Mariane’s search.
If we didn’t know the conclusion of this tragic tale, this would’ve been a powerful, downbeat thriller – but since we do, it’s interesting more as a study of the ineffectiveness of the American and Pakistani security services in their “war against terrorism” in early 2002.
Perhaps the most interesting thing would be to wonder whether this story would have had a different ending had it happened five years later.

Opens nationwide on 21st September 2007

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