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Movie With Might

Jolie shines in ‘A Mighty Heart’

mightyWatching a woman wail for her just-pronounced dead husband gets to you. How could it not? And when the woman in question has just undergone a five-week ordeal, trying to find her kidnapped husband, you can’t help but get emotional when watching her breakdown. This pivotal scene happens at the end of A Mighty Heart, which opens at the Nick and stars Angelina Jolie in an understated, spellbinding performance as Mariane Pearl, the woman whose husband is killed in the film.

OK, so you know how it ends—it was in the papers a few years ago, and the real-life Mariane wrote a book about the tragedy. But that doesn’t take away from experiencing the movie in all of its depth and haunting twists and turns.

Knowing that Jolie is a “movie star” might make it seem impossible to move beyond her visage, and allow her to become someone else. But that doesn’t happen here. In A Mighty Heart, Jolie shows off what a profoundly talented actor she is—one at the height of her game.

The mother to four children takes on a heavy French/Cuban accent, dons brown contacts, puts on a wig and embodies the actions, voice, behaviors and resilience of the true Mariane. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jolie starts to get some Oscar buzz.

While we know the ultimate direction the movie must take, the path there is tense and chaotic, and director Michael Winterbottom walks us through it in such a manner that you feel like you’re stuck in a taxi in the heart of Pakistan, where the film takes place.

It’s there that the Pearls are sent as journalists. Daniel (Dan Futterman) is working for the Wall Street Journal. He “finds” a lead on a story about Richard Reid, the notorious shoe bomber. But things quickly go awry, and by the next morning, he hasn’t returned home. He continues to go missing and Mariane rallies her colleagues, the local police and others, to investigate his whereabouts and attempt to find his captors.

The movie jumps right into the story, on the day when Daniel goes to meet his sketchy source for a story. From there, we watch as Mariane and the others gather research to find her husband.

Things move fast, the editing is choppy and raw, giving us a docudrama sense of actually being in Pakistan, watching it all go down. We see the reporters outside, hoping for a picture of Mariane. We watch the news reports announcing that Daniel is missing. The news has traveled fast, but the ongoing search for Daniel remains slow. Eventually, the police get some reliable direction and discover who may be responsible for his capture.

Toward the end of the film, things take the inevitable tragic turn that we know is coming: A videotape is handed over, revealing Daniel’s death by beheading. And then Mariane must be told. Pure heartbreak.

The movie, reportedly, was a huge undertaking for its star, Jolie, who had befriended Mariane and her son, Adam. Jolie has acknowledged in interviews that it was of the utmost importance for her to portray Mariane and the story correctly. It appears that she did just that.

A Mighty Heart has a vulnerable, raw feel to it. Much like Babel, which came out last year, it  offers political messages, told by way of the human spirit. In Babel, a fictional tale, an American woman was in the wrong place at the wrong time. In A Mighty Heart, Daniel is most likely targeted because he’s an American Jew, and his captors think he may be connected to the CIA. Both are tragic stories. Ultimately, at the heart of both films, is the love between a husband and wife.

A MIGHTY HEART
***1/2  (out of four)
With Angelina Jolie and Dan Futterman. Directed by Michael Winterbottom. Rated R. 100 minutes.
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