June 21, 2007
On screen, Danny Pearl’s story astounds
As the credits rolled after a preview screening of the docudrama, "A Mighty Heart," the audience, consisting of a small group of film critics, sat in stunned silence.|
The reaction was the more remarkable since everyone already knew the ultimate outcome -- the execution-style murder of American Jewish Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl by Islamic extremists in Karachi, which shocked the world five years ago.
Yet the film's tension ratchets up relentlessly as a combined Pakistani-American team tries to track down clue after misleading clue for 28 days to identify Pearl's kidnappers and save his life.
At the center of the chaotic rescue attempts portrayed in the film is Pearl's visibly pregnant Dutch-Cuban-Jewish wife, Mariane, a strong, smart and self-possessed woman and a journalist herself, played by Angelina Jolie.
In some of the more restrained recent media coverage during her long-running romance with partner Brad Pitt, the 32-year- old Jolie has been described as "the hottest film actress on the planet" and "the most beautiful woman in the world." It would have been easy, but fatal, to turn "A Mighty Heart" into a star vehicle for Jolie, portraying an expectant mother on an emotional roller-coaster in an exotic setting, but British director Michael Winterbottom and Jolie herself have eluded the trap.
Somewhat disguised by a prosthetic belly, curly wig and nondescript clothes, Jolie, who earlier earned her acting credentials with her Oscar-winning performance in "Girl, Interrupted," submerges herself into the role of Mariane.
In a necessarily smaller part as Daniel Pearl, screenwriter ("Capote") and actor Dan Futterman, appearing mainly in flashbacks, not only bears a pronounced physical resemblance to the then 38-year-old reporter, but also conveys his easy charm and wit.
Director Winterbottom ("The Road to Guantanamo") proves again his mastery of the cinema verite style, deftly jump-cutting from domestic scenes to chaotic street pursuits to actual news footage, and relieving the tension with episodes from the Pearls' courtship and Buddhist-Jewish wedding.
The recurring centerpiece of the movie is a large, erasable chart, in which the oddly mixed team from the Pakistani police, FBI and American consulate tries to connect the dots between an ever-changing cast of suspects and informers.
Eventually, the board resembles a combination of D-Day invasion plans with a particularly intricate offensive play diagramed by a football coach on steroids.
Also in this issue: Tom Tugend interviews actor Dan Futterman and director Michael Winterbottom
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