Friday, March 14, 2008

A Mighty Heart

The DVD extras include the news interview that the real Mariane Pearl gave in Pakistan before her husband's brutal execution was confirmed. In it she has a bright-eyed appeal, an immediate like-ability, that Angelina Jolie singularly fails to capture in her own version of this moment.

For this film to make sense, one has to feel sympathy with the Pearls and their circle and with the apparently humanistic motivations which brought them to that place at that time. And this is unfortunately where Winterbottom's movie left me cold. In fact, where I imagine he intended me to feel the strength of these characters, I sensed only their presumption. And it is surely off-putting that in such a messed up place the liberal intelligentsia should end up being one of the least appealing factions.

John Orloff's screenplay seems very coy about the murdered journalist's Jewishness (and I suppose Mariane's too − she is shown practicing Buddhism). I find it very hard to believe that a man named Daniel Pearl could have been so naive as to go about his business under the assumption that nobody in Pakistan would know he was Jewish unless he told them, especially as his business involved fixing up dinner dates with known Jihadi kidnapper-murderers.

Still the documentary-style film-making is hightly effective, and features a particularly thought-provoking, restrained treatment of the issue of torture. (I did wonder though why Omar, the most senior Jihadi detained, was apparently treated with more deference.)

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