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4 reviews, 2 user ratings

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Mighty Heart, A
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by William Goss

"Just The Facts, Ma'am"
3 stars

After journalist Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and beheaded in 2002, his wife proceeded to write a detailed memoir about his career and death, entitled 'A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband,' and dedicated it to their son, who was born after Pearl had passed away. She has every right to determine that the fate of her husband was embodied only by courage. However, that same conviction falters in its translation to the screen, as Mariane Pearl (as portrayed by Angelina Jolie) is stoic and noble to a fault, a regrettable victim of a tragic situation who maintained her composure as she waited for word, for hope, for heartache.

And wait, she did, and we do, ultimately to the film’s failing. However true it may be, the story is one that can’t help but make for an inherently passive narrative. As a memoir, it works as a touching tragedy; as a film, it becomes tedious rather than tense, a police procedural without urgency, but only inevitability. With his previous film, The Road to Guantanamo, director Michael Winterbottom crafted a docudrama of compelling fear and fury, an surely slanted yet palpably immediate work. Here, he seems to play it safe, and without an agenda, without that passion, he fails to save an unfortunate waiting game from growing cold and callous, letting apathy creep in while simultaneously allowing his lead to become Mariane Pearl, even if she succeeds more at simply becoming Not Angelina Jolie.

It may seem to sell short something this sensitive, but so dull are the proceedings as determined authorities like Will Patton and Irrfan Khan follow the flimsiest leads while Jolie updates a flow chart at home that it becomes increasingly difficult to forgive it as a vanity project and prestige offering. Herself a journalist, Mariane remains collected, more so than anyone could be expected to under such circumstances, but that seems to be her sole trait, and as time passes, both the character and the actress are gradually raised onto a pedestal of sorts as her husband’s fate only draws nearer.

It’s between this and mounting flashbacks to the fondest memories she has of him that it becomes transparent just how calculated a tale of woe this has become, building up to the anticipated scene where Pearl breaks down and Jolie lets out, at which point one might as well stamp “for your consideration” across the screen for all its unremarkable theatricality.

The investigation itself is never a less than intriguing trail to follow, but when the moment that a wife becomes a widow registers as nothing above an expected plot point, the heart is not mighty, but missing entirely.

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originally posted: 06/23/07 02:44:12
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User Comments

10/20/07 Loni Kim One of Angelina Jolie's best performances - definitely worth a watch. 4 stars
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  22-Jun-2007 (R)
  DVD: 16-Oct-2007



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