A documentary-style portrait of the kidnapping of, and search for, Daniel Pearl, Michael Winterbottom´s A Mighty Heart achieves a moving authenticity though the story presented is often uninvolving.
Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and his wife (and fellow journalist) Marianne were living in Karachi, Pakistan, in early 2002; en-route to a supposed interview with religious leader Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani, Pearl was kidnapped and taken hostage by an militant group who demanded the US release Pakistani detainees in exchange for his return.
On February 1, Pearl was beheaded by his captors, and a gruesome decapitation video soon spread through the internet.
A Mighty Heart, however, does not focus on Pearl´s ordeal; it instead presents a rather touching love-and-loss story told through the eyes of Marianne (Angelina Jolie) mixed with a distant, routine investigation following local and US attemtps to track down those responsible.
Early scenes focus on Pearl (Dan Futterman) during the day of his kidnapping, and they´re absolutely compelling – even when he´s meeting with an ISP provider or chatting with a cab driver.
Soon he disappears, however, and we witness none of his days in captivity – instead we get an emotional Marianne at their home, surrounded by friends and police.
Jolie is excellent and surprisingly understated throughout much of the film, until she receives the inevitable news and explodes into an emotional fury that rings depressingly true.
She carries the film when she´s on the screen, but unfortunately, that isn´t always the case; for a lengthy part of the midsection, I had to ask myself why we were following a routine investigation (which leads nowhere, while we already know the outcome) instead of focusing on Marianne or Daniel.
Not, perhaps, the film I had expected or wanted to see, but still an admirable and respectful – and completely unexploitative – tribute to Daniel Pearl.