A Mighty Heart: Angelina Jolie

Peter Mountain/Paramount Vantage

Review in a Hurry:  Michael Winterbottom's A Mighty Heart is torn between being a gritty police procedural and the dramatic portrayal of a widow's anguish. What we are left with is a haphazard fusion of both stories that smacks of Hollywood self-gratification. For a movie that aims to throw a spotlight on the human costs of international terrorism, it says surprisingly little and renders itself quickly forgettable.

The Bigger Picture:  A Mighty Heart fancies itself as a timely warning about the devastating effects of Islamic extremism, an in-depth look at international police work and a poignant portrait of loss. The vehicle for exploring all these themes is Mariane Pearl, the widow of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, and the result is a messy car wreck.

It's near impossible to care about the Mariane in this movie, as played by Angelina Jolie. Watching Jolie take on the role of an Afro-Cuban woman by wearing a black frizzy wig and slathering herself in bronzer is distracting, bordering on grotesque. And the insufferable sermonlike dialogue that continues to pour from Jolie's buffed lips creates an unbearable heaviness.

A Mighty Heart chronicles the six-week search for reporter Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped while on assignment in Karachi. A team of Pakistani investigators, FBI agents, nebbish journalists and one gruff official from the American consulate all swarm around Pearl's soon-to-be widowed wife Mariane. Amid all that typical Third World grime and clatter, the team hunkers down in Mariane's compound, poring over their leads, their laptops and their various conspiracy theories. Winterbottom, though, avoids most of the investigative details surrounding Pearl's case, so the film's urgency quickly dries up and we are left wondering why so many random Pakistani cab drivers are being smacked around by all those pissed-off cops.

The film does make a few confused attempts to brush up against the complicated issues surrounding India and Pakistan, police torture and the overall war on terror, but the film's politics come off as crude and sanctimonious. Ultimately, the most fascinating thing about A Mighty Heart is its ability to take a thoroughly compelling subject and make it totally banal.

The 180—a Second Opinion:  There were some moments of great police drama that were nicely played by the ensemble cast. And to her credit, Angelina Jolie is a very good actress—but not good enough to convince the audience that she wasn't Angelina Jolie.

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