Michael Winterbottom's "A Mighty Heart" - based on Mariane Pearl's book about the brutal death of her journalist-husband Daniel and her willful ability to cope with this loss - is a smart, tough film, as one would expect from any politically-driven movie from this uncompromising director. And as Mariane, Angelina Jolie impressively abandons herself in a committed, vanity-free performance.
But there's a hole at the center of this otherwise convicing polemic: Daniel Pearl himself is virtually missing and, by extention, so is the connection that would pull in an audience. While the talented Dan Futterman is well-cast as Pearl and effective in his few brief, fleeting scenes, there simply isn't enough of him.
This is a crucial flaw that reviews have inexplicably overlooked.
His Daniel Pearl is a ghost even at the beginning of the movie, a conceit which could have been intentional on Winterbottom's part. Nevertheless, it seriously constrains his film. "A Mighty Heart" is in desperate need of more exposition wherein we'd get to know Pearl and what drives him and, consequently, feel some empathy for him before he is abducted and beheaded.
Without these early scenes, we're left with an impassioned, tightly-coiled film that somehow leaves one cold.
(Artwork: Angelina Jolie and Dan Futterman as Mariane and Daniel Pearl in Paramount Vantage's "A Mighty Heart")
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