Review of “A Mighty Heart” directed by Michael Winterbottom

Review of "A Mighty Heart" Directed by Michael Winterbottom
rating ***

A Mighty Heart tells the true story of the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Everything about this movie is top notch: the acting, the writing, the direction. Still there is something missing. I think I know what it is, but more on that later.

The movie dramatizes the events before and after the kidnapping as viewed primarily from Mariane Pearl’s perspective, which makes sense considering the movie is based on her book. It feels and looks like a documentary. The dialog is all very real, which in a way is part of the problem. In real life, everyday dialog can become boring. There’s a lot in this movie that doesn’t seem to have much purpose. It’s like watching a reality TV show with contrived conflict.

And this is where I believe the film falls short. The viewer doesn’t get a real feel for the conflict because we never see Daniel Pearl in captivity. We don’t even see his kidnapping. At the end of the film we learn that Daniel Pearl had made two escape attempts. I would have been more involved in the film had I been able to empathize with his plight. As it is filmed here, the closest you get to knowing what he is experiencing is from photos sent via the Internet.

Still, the movie does create a believable level of suspense despite knowing the outcome at the outset. If there was a musical soundtrack, I sure didn’t pick up on it. Soundtracks are supposed to be inconspicuous, but they can also add an important layer to a film. Even documentaries use music to set mood.

Everyone involved in the film is to be commended. They managed to make it feel as if you were watching things in real time; and that’s not an easy thing to do. I just think they could have used more of Daniel Pearl’s perspective.

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