(Dir. Michael Winterbottom) (2007)
Daniel Pearl was an American Bureau Chief for The Wall Street Journal, based in India, who had gone to Karachi in January 2002 for what he thought was an interview, but was probably a set-up. He was abducted and held hostage by Al Qaeda-linked terrorists, ostensibly for ransom, probably for terror. Nine days later, on 1 February 2002, Pearl was beheaded, and the atrocity was captured on film.
A Mighty Heart is a film that concentrates on the frantic efforts of his wife, Marianne, to find him during those nine days.
Adapted from the novel by Mariane, it focuses, in a semi-documentary format, on the processes at work, from the point of view of various players – police, diplomats, friends and colleagues of the hostage (played by Dan Futterman) and his wife (Angelina Jolie).
Partially styled as a thriller and glib even on that level, the film is too slight to fully satisfy. The awfulness of the situation is not completely reflected in the film, which needs the density of a puddling, not the crisp dusty snap of a wafer. But that aside, there are some vivid locations that heighten the sense of chaos and the futility of the search; and the performances are all solid. With two exceptions: Irrfan Khan as the Pakistani police chief is absolutely superb, a riveting performance as a tireless, tenacious and worldly-wise avenger. And the increasingly bizarre and cloistered Angelina Jolie, as the distraught but brave and resourceful Mrs Pearl, is a revelation, in a brilliant performance, cleverly and credibly balancing the salad of emotions of her character. A pretty good film is worth seeing for these performances alone.