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Movie Review: A Mighty Heart

Taken from the front pages of the world's newspapers is the story of the kidnapping and beheading execution of Daniel Pearl, the South Asia Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal. As seen through her own eyes, and as told in her memoir, A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl, this film recounts these events from the perspective of Mariane Pearl.

On January 23, 2002, the six months pregnant journalist Mariane Pearl's (Angelina Jolie) life changed forever. Her husband, journalist Daniel Pearl (Dan Futterman) was researching a story on the shoe bomber Richard Reid when leads drew him to Karachi, Pakistan. Here a go-between had promised access to an elusive source, Kaleem Yusuf (Telal Saeed) to discuss his meeting with Sheikh Gilani (Ikram Bhatti). As Danny left for the meeting, he told Mariane he might be late for dinner. He never returned.

As the story unfolds, the desperate hunt for Danny starts without any information. The story moves at a quick pace, as investigators search for information from cell phone towers, ISPs, color copiers, and informants. Seasoned international journalists with formidable investigative skills are left clueless.

The Inter-Services Intelligence agency (I.S.I.) is fully briefed on Pakistan's proliferating terrorist cells while the byzantine bureaucracy swamps the city in their search. After five harrowing weeks and a media frenzy, they find the kidnappers. This is the meat of the movie as the cloak and dagger scenes examine the shocking world of politics, religion, and war. Finally, Mariane is given the devastating news that Danny has been brutally murdered.

I was leery of the casting of Angelina Jolie as Mariane, but I was wrong to doubt her. She is outstanding as well as dignified without diminishing the character of the Pearl family. The scene where she learns of Daniel's death is one of her best performances — she gives out a heart-wrenching cry that is unspeakably real. This film manages to respect its source material without losing its direction.

In the five years since Daniel Pearl's death, nearly 230 journalists have been killed in the line of duty.

Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
Running time: 120 minutes
Release date: June 22, 2007
Genre: Drama, Adaptation and Biopic/Docudrama
Distributor: Paramount Vantage
MPAA Rating: R

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