Posted by: detourmag on June 28, 2007 at 8:16 am

Is it possible for a movie to be so careful about its delicate subject, so eager not to offend or sensationalize, that in trying too hard to achieve a style of evenhanded realism it ends up saying nothing at all? For all its good intentions, A Mighty Heart does just that. Based on a memoir by Mariane Pearl, it tells the story of her husband’s well-publicized abduction and subsequent beheading in 2002 by Pakistani terrorists.

(The Pearls were journalists living on assignment in Karachi at the time.) Mariane’s book was more love story than procedural, a heartening story of the worldly Pearls living off only their passion and ideals. It used the tragedy as a device, with the backdrop of post-9/11 Pakistan as subtext, all in the service of an unflinching meditation on grace and dignity in the face of atrocity.

A Mighty Heart not only fails to capture the book’s spirit, it has nothing of its own to lean on for dramatic backbone. We already know the outcome going in, and most of the details of the investigation are smeared by an indiscriminate hand-held camera style (as if exposition itself is too crass). Worse, it comes off as a vanity pic for Jolie, whose globetrotting, do-gooding “consciousness” is as conspicuous for its high profile as the bug-eyed narcissism of her acting style. The real Mariane Pearl is the rare instance of someone more attractive than the movie star hired to portray her, and you can imagine Jolie wanting some of her credentialed glamour by association.

A Mighty Heart’s lack of veneer ends being just another pretense, as distracting and unaffecting as any Hollywood cliché. Too concerned with being careful, or worse, “real,” It ends up saying nothing at all, and forgets to put in any of the tonal varieties that color real real life.

- Daniel Johnson


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