Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Angelina Jolie, Dan Futterman, Archie Panjabi, Irrfan Khan, Will Patton, Denis O'Hare, Adnan Siddiqui, Gary Wilmes
Written by: John Orloff, based on the book by Mariane Pearl
Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
MPAA Rating: R for language
Running Time: 100
Date: 05/21/2007
IMDB

A Mighty Heart (2007)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Harboring Pearl

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Daniel Pearl, a journalist for the Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped and killed in Karachi, Pakistan in early 2002. His story, which his journalist wife Mariane Pearl captured in her 2003 book, is a powerful, tragic tale that would have made an awful Hollywood movie. And so director Michael Winterbottom (9 Songs, 24 Hour Party People) takes it to the opposite extreme, turning into a docudrama and following that genre's pre-established format. He shakes the camera -- and increases the shaking when something tense happens -- chops the editing into chunks of similar duration and includes occasional shots of "local color." By concentrating on this presentation and allowing the incendiary subject matter to "tell itself," Winterbottom betrays any artistry or emotional connection (the title doesn't match the film at all). And yet, we have Angelina Jolie playing Mariane, and it's a highly impressive piece of work. She speaks with a French accent, wears a darker skin color and ringlets in her hair, and carries around several months' worth of pregnant belly. But more than that, she avoids the Oscar-mongering vanity project (see North Country, etc.) that this could have been by slipping into the sidelines. The story happens around her, and others -- colleagues, police, etc. -- play equally important roles. She gets her Oscar clip moment when the inevitable ending comes, but Winterbottom slices a jump cut right in the middle, ruining her momentum. He also doesn't know how to end the picture, and winds up falling back on the painfully obvious. A little more patience, a la All the President's Men, could have done wonders for this.

DVD Details: Predictably, Paramount's DVD is more about the subject matter than the film. The picture shows a little bit of grain, but is very good, if you can get past all the shaky-cam stuff. Bonus features include a 30-minute "making of" featurette (all talking head interviews and clips), an 8-minute featurette about the Committee to Protect Journalists, and a two-minute public service announcement with information about the Daniel Pearl Foundation. Audio comes in English 5.1, French and Spanish, with optional English, French and Spanish subtitles. There are trailers for Margot at the Wedding, Arctic Tale, Stardust and The Kite Runner at startup.

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