CANNES, France (Hollywood Reporter) - Michael
Winterbottom's expertly fashioned documentary-style drama "A
Mighty Heart" relates the intense manhunt launched in Pakistan
when jihadists kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel
Pearl in 2002. Angelina Jolie delivers a well-measured and
moving performance as the reporter's wife, Mariane.
With the BBC's Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston now missing
and believed kidnapped for 70 days and journalists in danger in
hotspots worldwide, a film version of Mariane Pearl's book
about the search for her husband could not be more timely.
Due for release in June in the U.S. and the rest of the
world in September, the film delivers an even-handed approach
to incendiary topics that should generate substantial interest.
Jolie's voice-over sets the scene as the movie begins in
Karachi, a vast, sprawling city where Daniel Pearl (Dan
Futterman) goes missing. He was on assignment to meet a man who
could tell him more about Richard Reid, the captured shoe
bomber. The events of September 11 were not long past and
Reid's situation was made difficult by the Wall Street
Journal's decision to go public with the fact that it had
turned over a suspicious computer to the CIA.
The film traces Pearl's movements on the night he was
kidnapped, when he received several warnings to meet his
contact only in public. His trail died when a taxi dropped him
off at a restaurant.
When he fails to return to the place where he and his wife
-- who is pregnant with their first child -- are staying, she
calls the authorities. Senior people from the newspaper,
including John Bussey (Denis O'Hare) and Steve Levine (Gary
Wilmes), drop everything to help in the hunt, headquartered at
the home of the Pearls' friend writer Asra (Archie Panjabi).
U.S. diplomatic security specialist Randall Bennett (Will
Patton) and representatives of assorted American agencies join
the team that's led by the head of the Pakistani
counterterrorism unit, who is known as Captain (Irrfan Khan).
The news breaks internationally, and various parties claim
that Pearl is with the CIA or Mossad, which complicates things.
One Pakistani government member dismisses it as a crime by
India. Winterbottom shows the painstaking steps taken to link
one mobile phone caller to the next and efforts to track down a
single Internet provider that is used to send e-mails about the
kidnapping. Marcel Zyskind's cinematography captures the
frantic bustle of the overpopulated city as agents swarm into
tenements to arrest suspects.
The film alarmingly implies that torture works when one
suspect reveals names under duress. Watching the
no-holds-barred approach of the Pakistani authorities on a
raid, the American Bennett declares, "I love this town!"
For the most part, however, the film reflects the
dispassionate view espoused by Mariane Pearl, who sees that it
is misery that breeds terrorism. Jolie plays her with respect
and a firm grasp on a difficult accent influenced by France and
Cuba. She has a powerful scene in which she lets out a shriek
of grief that will be recognized wherever people suffer from
terror and loss.
Mariane Pearl: Angelina Jolie
Daniel Pearl: Dan Futterman
Asra Nomani: Archie Panjabi
Captain: Irrfan Khan
Randall Bennett: Will Patton
John Bussey: Denis O'Hare
Dost Aliani: Adnan Siddiqui
Steve Levine: Gary Wilmes
Masud the Fixer: Daud Khan
Omar/Bashir: Alyy Khan
Suleiman: Taj Khan
Director: Michael Winterbottom; Screenwriter: John Orloff;
Producers: Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Andrew Eaton;
Cinematographer: Marcel Zyskind; Production designer: Mark
Digby; Music: Harry Escot, Molly Nyman; Costume designer:
Charlotte Walter; Editor: Peter Christelis.