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Blu-ray Review: A Mighty Heart

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The Film

Based on the heartbreaking true story of kidnapped and murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, A Mighty Heart is a gripping film that’s especially moving due to its basis in fact.

Daniel (Dan Futterman) is in Pakistan, with his wife Mariane (Angelina Jolie), reporting on terrorism in the region. He’s promised a meeting with a prominent sheik, but never comes home, launching an investigation into his disappearance fueled by hope, but fearing the worst. Daniel’s kidnappers proclaim that he is really an American CIA agent posing as a journalist, and the threat of death seems imminent.

At the core of the investigation is Mariane, pregnant and determined to get her husband back alive. Jolie’s performance is strong, despite an accent that tends to drop in and out. Her quiet resilience is under constant attack from an impending hopelessness, and Jolie is excellent at conveying this mounting pressure until her emotions reach a crescendo in the film’s climactic scene. Both cathartic and devastating, this is powerful stuff from Mrs. Brad Pitt.

Director Michael Winterbottom (The Road to Guantanamo) approaches the film with the goal of realism, appropriately. Confusion is ever-present in the narrative, with a large and ever-growing cast of characters that may be involved in Daniel’s kidnapping. It’s difficult to get a handle on what actually happened, which is often the way reality works.

Winterbottom’s natural style and handheld camera work is a good example of how the format can be effective without being overly jarring or distracting. The film maintains an almost constant layer of suspense, despite the outcome being known going in, and much of that is due to the excellent direction.

The Blu-ray Disc

A Mighty Heart is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This is a film that has a lot of natural grain due to its visual style, and it’s nearly always apparent to some degree or another here. The color palette is mostly pale, dull even, leaving few shots where any particular color stands out. Skin tones and black levels appear to be consistent throughout, and picture clarity and sharpness are generally strong, but there’s little remarkable about the visual presentation. It’s an upgrade from standard definition, but the film just doesn’t lend itself to high def greatness.

The audio is presented in Dolby 5.1 TrueHD, which presents this dialogue-driven mix cleanly and clearly. Nothing too notable, although the many scenes that feature characters talking over one another benefit from the distinctness the sound provides.

Special Features

The extras from the initial DVD release and the HD DVD release are simply carried over here, as this is one of another wave of Paramount’s switch to Blu-ray. A 30-minute making-of documentary is pretty standard stuff. Short clips and images are shown of the real Mariane and Daniel Pearl, and this is easily the most interesting. A new interview from Mariane would’ve been nice, but it’s understandable that there’s nothing of the sort.

Also included are a public service announcement and a short featurette on the Committee to Protect Journalists, an important organization dedicated to keeping overseas reporters safe, especially in countries whose free speech laws are essentially nonexistent.

The theatrical trailer rounds out the bonus material. Save for the trailer, all the special features are in standard definition.

The Bottom Line

A Mighty Heart doesn’t really require a Blu-ray upgrade, but it does deserve to be seen in some format. It’s got powerful and important subject matter, solid direction, and a notable performance from Jolie.

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About Dusty Somers

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based editor and writer. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.