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.