A Mighty Heart (15)

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The Independent Culture

In 2002, the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered by Islamic militants in Pakistan. A Mighty Heart is based on the memoir by Pearl's wife Mariane, a journalist herself, who was six months pregnant at the time. While she ascribed the "mighty heart" to her husband, after watching this fine and moving film one is inclined to apply the description to Mariane herself.

Michael Winterbottom is an ideal director for the story, not just because of an interest in the region and its politics (seen in his earlier films In This World, and The Road to Guantanamo) but because his no-nonsense docudrama style so suits the material. Also, he would never favour the actor, let alone a star, over the story. He must be partly credited with a performance from Angelina Jolie, as Mariane (right), all the more powerful for its restraint.

He briefly sets the scene of the couple's presence in Karachi. Just a few days before flying home, Daniel (Dan Futterman) goes to meet a contact for a story on shoe bomber Richard Reid. He never comes back. Winterbottom quickly conveys Karachi's intimidating sprawl and the complexity of the situation, in which the kidnappers accuse Mariane's husband of being, alternately, an agent for the CIA and for Mossad. As the ill-fated search proceeds, the tension pretty much cranks itself up.

Caught in a circus of Pakistani police, US diplomats, FBI agents and newspaper colleagues, a lesser person would have wilted. But Jolie's Mariane is a commanding presence, spiky, demanding, clinging to hope. She's holding in volcanic emotion, of course, and, when finally unleashed, her cry of anguish is terrible.

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