Gripping, compelling, involving, and at times confusing, A Mighty Heart is a standout drama led by the powerful performance of Angelina Jolie. The tragic tale of reporter Daniel Pearl makes for outstanding cinema in the face of the events themselves. Michael Winterbottom’s hectic direction lends an air of panic and authenticity that creates the superb atmosphere which makes it impossible to stop watching.
The opening 20 minutes, filled with spectacular footage of Pakistan to set the tone, are rapid fire. Information is thrown at the viewer at nearly an impossible rate, while flashbacks further complicate matters. At times, this same pacing leaves little time for dialogue, and later scenes can be equally complex or even completely unexplained.
Once the film settles down into a tight, strict flow, A Mighty Heart begins to immerse the viewer in this woman’s struggle to find her husband amidst international tensions. Running slightly over an hour and a half, there is no wasted time. This is a movie trimmed to its bare minimum, effective in keeping viewers in their seats.
The chaos as Mariane Pearl is forced into a situation involving countless people from various locations across the world is captured in a documentary style. The performances are flawless to maintain this style, and keep the feel of realism high.
Jolie is the easiest to pick out of the group. When she learns of her husband's fate, it’s not just sorrow you’ll feel. The performance feels real, to the point where you want to leave her alone in the room. It’s nearly impossible to avoid becoming chocked up and feeling her pain.
As the frustration mounts from false news reports, e-mails, and a growing flock of journalists outside their location, A Mighty Heart handles all aspects of this situation. It is at times overwhelming, yet the confusion and chaos feel like a reflection on Pearl’s mental state, bringing the audience closer to this story. True stories are rarely presented on film better than this.
Video quality is a disappointment here. Edge enhancement is frequent and ugly. Compression and color both have frequent problems, while the whites bleed out into other areas of the picture. Black levels fail to show depth.
A Dolby TrueHD mix is stronger than you might initially realize. City streets are active with audio coming from all angles. Shops are filled with chatter from every speaker, and cars move through the sound field. A nearly hidden soundtrack provides some decent bass to accompany the dialogue.
Extras are sparse, including a mundane making-of titled Journey of Passion. This 30-minute piece is comprised of the actors discussing their roles, padded by countless film clips to artificially extend the running time. Committee to Protect Journalists is a nine minute piece on the organization of the same name, while a PSA is included instructing viewers on where to donate to a fund in Pearl’s name.
A Mighty Heart is yet another movie based on a true story that comes to DVD with nothing on the actual people involved. While they’re discussed, they are never featured in archived interviews or footage which would seem the best way to give them screen time if new interviews weren’t possible. This trend needs to end.