JOLIE ACTS FROM THE HEART; Crude Awakening ... Kevin Adams, Left, and Adam Sandler Discover It's Not Easy Being a Gay Couple in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry Terrible Truth ... Angelina Jolie, Right, and Archie Panjabi Search for Answers in A Mighty Heart. Inset Left: Dan Futterman as Daniel Pearl
Byline: Matthew Bond
There is a temptation to dismiss A Mighty Heart as nothing more than avanity project for Angelina Jolie. After all, partner Brad Pitt bought therights to Mariane Pearl's book, he co-produces the subsequent film and she, ofcourse, takes the central role of Mariane, wife of Daniel Pearl, the WallStreet Journal reporter kidnapped and murdered by Al Qaeda terrorists inPakistan in 2002.
But to dismiss the picture in such a way would be unfair. Pitt and Jolie may beTinseltown's glossiest couple but they've clearly given serious thought -perhaps taking advice from their friend George Clooney - to how the proceedsfrom commercial moneyspinners such as Mr And Mrs Smith, Lara Croft and theOcean movies should be reinvested.
I've seen it twice now and A Mighty Heart is a good film; indeed it's a betterfilm than I gave it credit for when I first saw it at this year's Cannes FilmFestival, where the glitz and glamour did it no favours.
At last week's screening, I watched it with BBC reporter Frank Gardiner -gunned down by Al Qaeda terrorists in Saudi Arabia in 2004 - sitting just infront of me. 'Is my wheelchair in your way?' he asked, unwittingly underliningthe film's relevance in the most powerful way.
Thanks to Pitt and Jolie having the good sense to bring in British directorMichael Winterbottom, A Mighty Heart is intelligent, has integrity andpossesses not a single frame of Hollywood gloss.
Using the same hand-held cameras and quick-fire editing he employed for hisgrimly realistic 2003 picture about illegal immigration, In This World, andretaining some of the anger that led to The Road To Guantanamo in 2006,Winterbottom does a superb job of capturing the chaos and confusion of Karachi.It is here that Pearl was kidnapped and, in a compound just beyond the cityperimeter, met his terrible death.
But this is not Daniel Pearl's story: except in flashback, fantasy or emailedphotograph we do not see him again once a taxi has dropped him at therestaurant where he had been promised an interview with a cleric who couldfurther his inquiry into the shoebomber Richard Reid.
No, this is the story of Mariane, an experienced journalist herself whorealises her husband has been set up within hours of his failure to returnhome. Working alongside Daniel's Indian colleague, Asra Nomani (well played byBritish actress Archie Panjabi), she discovers the mobile numbers he has beengiven don't work and the email address, when translated from Urdu, carries aworrying religious message.
Despite seeking the advice of security officials and the American Embassy,Daniel has walked into a trap.
Bravely, the film implies that Pearl himself may have been partly to blame forhis plight. Not only were his defences down because he was within 24 hours ofleaving Pakistan, he may also have succumbed to that addiction to danger andintrigue that afflicts so many experienced foreign correspondents.
And he would never deny he was a
Jew; indeed in one scene we even see him correcting an Islamic cleric whobelieves he is being interviewed by a Christian. Commendably brave or downrightfoolish, it's a tough call. As I said after seeing the film in Cannes, I dothink it's a little strange to find Jolie, who is white, playing Mariane, whois of Afro-Cuban and Dutch origins. But, that said, there's no doubt she givesa very honest performance, never glamorising her character; never trying tomake the courageous and emotionally contained woman more sympathetic than sheactually is.
Only when Mariane learns of her husband's unequivocal death does she breakdown, in scenes bound to capture the attention of the major award juries.
There's no doubt A Mighty Heart is hard to watch: it's emotionally restrained;the Pakistani police investigation is difficult to keep up with and, of course,there is no happy ending. But it's also a convincing and brutally revealinginsight into our dangerous modern world. …