By Kevin Vaughn
June 29, 2007
As one of the most talked about public figures and half of the most photographed couple in the world, Angelina Jolie is known for many things: controversial love affairs, world-renowned beauty and humanitarian efforts in Africa. Many forget that she is actually an actress, and those who do follow her acting career tend to remember her money making roles in blockbusters like "Gone in Sixty Seconds", "Lara Croft" and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" before they recognize her for her Oscar winning break-out performance in "Girl, Interrupted." Besides the latter, many of Jolie's roles accentuate her inescapable sexuality, but "A Mighty Heart," which opened last Friday at Premiere Cinemas, is her most mature and engaging role to date, marking a political and social awareness that has become an integral part of Jolie's persona.
Jolie tackles the difficult role of Mariane Pearl, a French Cuban living in Pakistan with her American husband Daniel; Mariane is five months pregnant with their first child. She and Daniel are two of many journalists who have come to Pakistan to track the ongoing war in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Since Pakistan shares a border with Afghanistan, it stood as a prime place for many to come and unravel stories about the Taliban and the jihadist.
With the help of a notable source, Daniel is led to an interview with a powerful member of the insurgency named Sheik Gulani. Everyone Daniel seeks advice from warns him to meet in a public place, and be careful with his questioning, but plans go awry and Daniel is held hostage until the U.S. agrees to release prisoners that are being treated inhumanely at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
Director Michael Winterbottom makes a wise decision in not making this Jolie's movie. Despite my praise for a truly brilliant performance, this is not a movie simply about Mariane Pearl's experiences. We get to know all of the people around her, and the ways in which they struggle to cope with Daniel's disappearance. Mariane's confidante Asra (Archie Panjabi) an Indian journalist for the Wall Street Journal, must struggle with issues of race and Captain (Irfan Khan), the Pakistani investigator in charge of Daniel's case, wants nothing more than to maintain the integrity of the Pakistani state.
In its simplest form, "A Might Heart" tells the story of a woman who must cope with the loss of her beloved husband while living in a foreign land; the flashbacks of Mariane and Daniel (Dan Futterman) tells an incredible story of enduring love and courage. On another level, it is a taut political thriller that keeps us on the edge as we watch Captain desperately search Karachi for Daniel. When you dig a little deeper we see many other issues weaved into this tale. As Pearl is bombarded with paparazzi-like "journalists" who are more interested in prying into her personal life than writing about the issues at hand, the film becomes a sharp social commentary on the intentions and merits of popular journalism. The people who interview Mariane beg her to point a finger at the Middle East and group all of the people who occupy half of a continent into a group of terrorists.
Mariane's reply to this is eloquent, despite the chaos that surrounds her. And although it is hard to find closure in a film with such a horrifying ending we leave with great admiration for both Pearl and Jolie, and a newfound understanding on the people of the Middle East and those who seek to uncover the truth that has been lost amidst the war on terror.