Jun 18, 2007

Remembering Daniel Pearl

I attended a screening this evening of the upcoming film A Mighty Heart, which is a docudrama that examines the kidnapping and killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Set for release June 22, A Mighty Heart avoids sensationalism in its retelling of this disturbing saga, and provides a realistic account of the attempts to free Danny Pearl and find his kidnappers.

Like most screenings, there appeared survey personnel to collect audience reactions, but what do you say about a film in which you know going in that one of the main characters is long since dead?

"Hey, great! I loved it!" or "One of the year's ten best!" seemed inappropriate to utter, and I managed only to come up with "Disturbing..."

This is one of the better performances I have seen by Angelina Jolie, who plays Pearl's journalist wife Mariane Pearl. Admittedly, I have never been much of a fan of Jolie as an actress, so this might not be a compliment, but she is convincing in the role of the grief-stricken widow who holds out hope until the end that her husband would return.

As a journalist, I expected to see more of the work and life of Daniel Pearl, so the picture's focus on his wife was an unanticipated surprise. The film's title implies that we will see something heroic about Pearl, and certainly one has sympathy for the character, but he almost becomes something of a minor player in the hands of director Michael Winterbottom.

As a person of Jewish descent, Pearl might have been doomed from the moment he was kidnapped, and the film notes the rumors circulating at the time that he was an agent of Mossad or the CIA. Ultimately, though, Daniel Pearl stood for truth, and his death is a reminder of the sacrifice made by many journalists who have been killed by those who fear truth.

While not an epic film, A Mighty Heart is an important film, and those who struggle to understand geopolitics and the role played by radical Islamists. I recommend the film as a source of enlightenment, much like I did 2006's Syriana, but you will not leave this picture with a warm, fuzzy feeling.


Man with the Muck-rake said...

One of the Middle Eastern reporters from CNN was recently called back by the news organization because he and UK reporters are being targeted for kidnapping by the radical elements there.

One wonders if our insatiable quest for news subsequently contributes to the death of reporters.

I'd say that the life of an individual is vastly more important than a news story.

historymike said...

Agreed, MWTMR. While my own personal journalistic horror stories certainly pale in comparison with those of reporters in combat zones, I know well the difficult choices between pursuing a difficult story and guaranteeing one's own safety.

My wife, especially, has chastised me for recklessness in the pursuit of truth, and I spend much less time in dangerous places.

That is, unless you consider redneck campfires or acrophobia attacks on bridges to be the height of journalistic derring-do.


historymike said...

Welcome, by the way, to readers of Parade magazine's website, which was kind enough to link this review today.

fourth reich said...

History Kike strikes again, it figures you'd stick up for the Global Jew.