A Mighty Heart

Year: 2007
Studio: Paramount Vantage
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Writer: Jeff Orloff/Marianne Pearl
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Dan Futterman, Archie Panjabi

Angelina Jolie arrived with us as an actor rather than a movie star with films like Gia and Girl, Interrupted. So she can do character and performance as easily as she can pout and stare those eyes into you in action thrillers like Wanted and Salt.

Here she inhabits the skin of Mariane Pearl, the wife of reporter Daniel who was captured and beheaded by kidnappers in Pakistan, becoming the most visible victim of the war on terror after September 11.

Far from a mousy housewife, Mariane is a reporter herself and she can hold her own in a room full of politicians, cops and diplomats, but as Danny's disappearance drags on with too few clues and too many competing agencies basing themselves at her house we see her quietly falling apart inside.

In the hands of most Hollywood directors it would be an epic weepie that obtusely pushed every emotional button it could, focusing closely in on the heroine and reducing everyone else around her to muslim stereotypes. Imagine the Ron Howard version.

But the main reason to see it is Michael Winterbottom's realistic depiction of the people and events surrounding Mariane's plight. When Jolie does bust out the serious thesping (including the heart-rending scene when she learns of Daniel's fate) it's in the right place at the right time, Winterbottom focusing on the procedures and people around her with expert skill.

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