For one of the more interesting off-screen celebrities, many of Angelina Jolie's onscreen choices have been fairly dull: popcorn movies that aren't going to test either her range or the viewer's brain. 'A Mighty Heart' does however see Jolie tackling something far more meaningful, and, while it isn't perfect, hopefully bodes well for her career path in the future.
Based on the bestselling memoir of the same name, 'A Mighty Heart' tells the story of Mariane Pearl and her husband Daniel, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was abducted and later beheaded in Karachi in 2002.
Living with him in the city we see the pregnant Mariane's (Jolie) attempts to make some sense of her husband's (Futterman) abduction - clinging to her belief and the reassurances of others that he will be alright and trying everything possible to get him released.
Surrounded by Pakistani and US intelligence agents and her husband's colleagues, Mariane attempts to retrace Daniel's steps on the day of his disappearance. Theories abound, false information flourishes, diplomatic tensions rise and the media circus grows larger by the hour.
Whereas Paul Greengrass' docudrama 'United 93' did well at the US box office, 'A Mighty Heart' fared very poorly - puzzling for such a moving story and the presence of Jolie. Perhaps it was because Friday night audiences don't want Jolie in such a role or maybe the fight back of the passengers on 'United 93' was more of an attention grabber. Whatever the reasons, it's a pity more people didn't see this film.
Having made the 'The Road to Guantanamo', 'In This World' and 'Code 46', director Michael Winterbottom brings his distinctive visual style and cinematic energy to Pearl's story. As expected, he superbly captures the feel of another culture, plunging the viewer into a chaotic world of modernity and poverty. And the criticisms of the West are there.
Where Winterbottom's film fails is that it tries to be a thriller and a human drama at the same time, but the latter is never as compelling as the former. In the scenes where the Pakistani police captain (a brilliant Irfan Khan) and his men turn Karachi upside down in their search for the Daniel Pearl the film has an intensity which the scenes involving Jolie can't match.
By the close you feel that 'A Mighty Heart' should've been longer (the end is hurried) and demanded even more of Jolie. It seems inconceivable that she won't have some of the shortest odds in Oscar history, but there was an even stronger performance in this story.
Whatever 'A Mighty Heart's shortcomings, the Pearls' courage and dignity deserve your time.