2007-07-06 / Columnists

MovieScope

Review By Robert Snyder

Review By Robert Snyder

'A Mighty Heart' - Mighty Boring

The terrorist kidnapping and beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is a horror fresher in the universal consciousness than the 9/11 tragedy. A docu-drama should be fraught with edge-of-your-seat suspense and relevant tension. So why is the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie film of the atrocity, "A Mighty Heart," painstakingly plodding?

Based on the book by Daniel Pearl's wife, Mariane Pearl, "Heart" is overly focused on Mariane, played by executive producer Pitt's domestic partner, Angelina Jolie. We are constantly that Mariane, like her husband, is a journalist and not just a stay-at-home, about-to-be mother. With Daniel's heroic presence essentially reduced to a few flashbacks, the martyred newsman unfortunately becomes an afterthought to the story.

In "Babel"/"Syriana" fashion, the Michael Winterbottom-directed film is a confused series of blurred images following the frenzied investigation to find and stop the Muslim terrorists responsible for the kidnapping and eventual murder. Jolie tries to keep it low-key, maintaining her character's journalistic professionalism, until the final revelation of Daniel's brutal fate. At that point, she explodes in a repetition of ear-splitting wails and shrieks, that may be designed to grab Oscar's attention and wake-up sleeping audience members (of which there were many at the screening I attended).

The "good guys" in the Pakistani counter-terrorism unit are not above using torture to squeeze information from "bad guys." Meanwhile, Mariane and her elite Western journalist friends spend a lot of time in her palatial Karachi home smooching and noshing. In the brief scenes of Daniel (Dan Futterman), he appears to be the real thing, though naive to the dangers around him, as he chases down a story about Pakistani cleric Mubarik Ali Gilani's links to "shoe bomber" Richard Reid.

The seconds of recreated video footage of the captive Pearl overpower the mishmash of Mariane's world. In the film's final moments, hints of Daniel's ordeal and escape attempts are mentioned, but never dramatized. It leaves the audience thirsting for more about this dynamic reporter, who died in a futile attempt to enlighten the masses about what's inside the minds of Muslim militants.

What could have been a "Midnight Express" tour through terrorist hell ends up as a boring ego trip for Jolie. Maybe someday a filmmaker will rise to the high level of this subject matter.

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