Director Michael Winterbottom ("Welcome to Sarajevo", "24 Hour Party People", "The Claim") continues to seek varying projects with his latest, "A Mighty Heart", which is a moving and powerful adaptation of Marianne Pearl's book. The film stars Angelina Jolie as Marianne, who - as the movie opens - is pregnant and in Karachi, Pakistan with her husband, Daniel (Dan Futterman).
Early in the movie, Daniel announces that he is going off for another interview with a religious leader. He gets into a taxi and drives off, through the crowded streets of the city. However, as time passes, he begins to notice that the route has taken some strange turns and he asks where he's being taken. Meanwhile, after the hours pass with no word, Marianne starts making calls and trying to track him down, but with no success. As night turns to day, she grows more worried about the whereabouts of her husband.
The film is largely from the perspective of Marianne, as Daniel is only seen briefly at times and mostly in flashbacks. Once Marianne gets word that her husband has been kidnapped, she and those surrounding her, such as a US official (Will Patton) and others, try to do whatever they can to find who's responsible.
However, in Karachi, Marianne initially has trouble with getting help from local officials. There's also the matter of the city itself: rather than shooting from arm's length, director Michael Winterbottom and cinematographer Marcel Zyskind get into the middle of the chaotic and crowded city, where millions of people all seem to be trying to make their way through the streets at the same time. Cars struggle just to pass through the downtown streets. The film's shaky, urgent, intense camerawork (really a documentary style) may not be everyone's cup-of-tea, but it works for the film to give the viewer the sense of the place as the search continues and the feeling of, really, how can anything be found here?
The performances are quite powerful, and Jolie impresses in her role as Marianne. The actress does manage to disappear into the role, and does an excellent job portraying Marianne's strength and calm, despite the turmoil she was experiencing inside. Futterman (who actually was nominated for an Oscar for his "Capote" screenplay) is good, although the character is hardly seen, and that's a bit of a disappointment, as I'd liked to have learned more from the movie about Daniel.
Still, while the movie could have given Daniel a bit more of the focus, "A Mighty Heart" does remain a very moving, powerful portrayal of Marianne's strength and courage in confronting an unthinkable nightmare.
VIDEO: "Mighty Heart" is presented by Paramount in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The film was mostly shot in high-def and the presentation by Paramount does handle the gritty looking film pretty well. Sharpness and detail vary a little bit at times and the film can look a touch soft and grainy, but this seems to be the intentional look of the cinematography. No edge enhancement or artifacting is spotted, and the elements used appeared clean. The film's subdued color palette looked accurately presented, with no smearing or other faults. Overall, this was not a dazzling presentation, but it handles the material well.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is largely dialogue-driven, but during scenes in the streets of the city, the rear speakers do provide some minor ambience. Audio quality was fine, with crisp dialogue and a full, rich score.
EXTRAS: We get a nearly 30-minute "making of" featurette, a short featurette on the "Committee to Protect Journalists" and a PSA from Christiane Amanpour.
Final Thoughts: While the movie could have given Daniel a bit more of the focus, "A Mighty Heart" does remain a very moving, powerful portrayal of Marianne's strength and courage in confronting an unthinkable nightmare. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality, as well as a few minor extras. Recommended.
The Film B+