Facts of death

A MIGHTY HEART Di­rected by Michael Win­ter­bot­tom. Star­ring An­gelina Jolie, Dan Fut­ter­man, Ir­rfan Khan, Archie Pan­jabi, Will Pat­ton, Amer Bail 15A cert, gen re­lease, 100 min

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews - MICHAEL DWYER

THE world pre­miere of A Mighty Heart at Cannes in May took on a par­tic­u­lar ur­gency at a time when BBC Gaza correspondent Alan John­ston had been miss­ing for three months. Thank­fully, John­ston lived to sur­vive the hor­rific fate of the movie’s sub­ject, Danny Pearl, who was the South Asia bureau chief of the Wall Street Jour­nal when he was ab­ducted in Karachi in Jan­uary 2002.

Michael Win­ter­bot­tom’s film is formed in the style of a drama­tised doc­u­men­tary as it fol­lows the dogged quest to find and res­cue Pearl. It is based on a mem­oir writ­ten by his widow Mar­i­ane, a free­lance re­porter for French ra­dio and television. Mar­i­ane was five months preg­nant with their first child at the time, and the Pearls were due to leave Pak­istan for Dubai the fol­low­ing day.

Danny had been re­search­ing a story on shoe bomber Richard Reid and had one more in­ter­view to con­duct. He was never seen again – un­til the ap­palling cir­cum­stances of his death were re­vealed in a video cir­cu­lated for pro­pa­ganda pur­poses.

Through Mar­i­ane’s fright­ened eyes, the hu­man level of the story com­pellingly un­folds in par­al­lel with the com­plex po­lit­i­cal di­men­sion as we ob­serve the five-week search car­ried out by Pak­istan’s counter-ter­ror­ism unit, the FBI and sev­eral jour­nal­ists. The film ben­e­fits sig­nif­i­cantly from Win­ter­bot­tom’s re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing in the re­gion on In This World and The Road to Guan­tanamo.

John Orloff’s screen­play as­sem­bles lay­ers of data and counter-claims made dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­fore it reached its tragic con­clu­sion. It could be ar­gued that there is more de­tail than is nec­es­sary or can eas­ily be ab­sorbed, and the screen­play feels clut­tered. The re­cent Zo­diac (see DVD re­view, right) and Breach, for ex­am­ple, were more adept in tak­ing a pro­ce­dural approach to com­pli­cated, fac­tu­ally based sto­ries.

Apart from such no­table ex­cep­tions as United 93, most post-9/11 movies have suf­fered from in­for­ma­tion over­load that un­der­mined their pur­poses, from Ba­bel and World Trade Cen­tre to the im­mi­nent Redacted and Ren­di­tion.

While An­gelina Jolie is ef­fec­tively un­der­stated as Mar­i­ane Pearl, per­form­ing with feel­ing and em­pa­thy, Danny (played by looka­like Dan Fut­ter­man, who scripted Capote) fea­tures all too pe­riph­er­ally in flash­backs – even though the full ti­tle of the book that’s the ba­sis of the film is A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death ofMy Hus­band Danny Pearl.

An­gelina Jolie as Mar­i­ane Pearl

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