Director Michael Winterbottom and star Angelina Jolie find the Heart behind the headline

A Mighty Heart

on June 22, 2007 by Richard Mowe
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In such films as In This World and The Road to Guantanamo , director Michael Winterbottom has demonstrated an adept talent for tackling subjects straight from the headlines and amassing with clarity a wealth of facts and complex detail. This kind of track record makes him the ideal candidate to adapt Mariane Pearl's harrowing account of the kidnap and murder of her husband Danny, a Wall Street Journal reporter, in Pakistan.

Daniel Pearl was following up a story about the would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid when he disappeared. Winterbottom follows the five frantic weeks that ensued as his wife and colleagues desperately tried to find clues as to his whereabouts and the identity of his abductors.

Much of the film rests on the shoulders of Angelina Jolie as Mariane, who was pregnant at the time. The actress rallies to the challenge, giving a performance that is nuanced, unsensational and deeply moving as she comes to grips with the appalling reality of her situation. The fact that Jolie and Pearl had a close off-screen rapport doubtless helped to invest her portrayal with a greater depth and sensibility. And Dan Futterman as her husband shows how he balanced the highest journalistic principles with being a loving and caring spouse, looking forward to fatherhood.

Winterbottom opts appropriately for an unsentimental approach, avoiding any tendency to histrionics or sensationalism. The only concession to softening the material is the inclusion of some footage of the Pearls' marriage and their moments together in happier times. The commitment of producer Brad Pitt and Jolie to the story is also commendable, resulting result in a film that has heart and integrity, providing insight into a wrenching dilemma that no headline news reportage could ever achieve.
Distributor: Paramount Vantage
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Dan Futterman, Irfan Khan, Denis O'Hare, Archie Panjabi, Will Patton and Gary Wilmes
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Screenwriter: John Orloff
Producers: Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Andrew Eaton
Genre: Drama
Rating: R for language
Running time: 103 min.
Release date: June 22, 2007 ltd
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