A Mighty Heart
Rubbernecking makes my blood curdle. When I'm stuck in traffic and everyone slows to stare at the early 90s Civic with smoke pouring out from under the hood and its high-school age owner frantically calling his parents, I try my best not to succumb to road rage. Sure, I'm curious about what's going on &mdash we all have some degree of morbid curiousity — but all the gawking isn't helping anybody. In fact, it's keeping thousands of people from getting to work on time. With this in mind, I wonder if Michael Winterbottom's A Mighty Heart is nothing more than a smoking Honda Civic or the latest post about Kate Moss' exploits on Perez Hilton. Does it serve a purpose beyond telling a story we've all heard, but with fancier equipment?
A Mighty Heart is the story of Mariane Pearl (Angelina Jolie), wife of Washington Post writer Daniel Pearl (Dan Futterman) who was held captive and killed in Pakistan, and the search for his captors. The story plays out like a beautifully shot procedural drama as we watch the Pakistani police, Post employees and various U.S. agencies follow a long string of bit players until they find the true villian. Jolie was able to shed her gossip column alter-ego and give a passionate performance and shows Mariane Pearl as a woman of great integrity who cared deeply for her husband and the truth. The film, while difficult to watch as I knew the gruesome ending that awaited me, nearly kept me from blinking in fear of missing something important and showed the care and devotion of everyone involved in the search for Daniel Pearl.
Still, if Michael Winterbottom felt it was important enough to tell this aspect of the Daniel Pearl tragedy in a film, it should be more than just a good story. It was probably a bit unfair to mention rubbernecking in contrast to the film, but when a tragedy is fresh in our minds it seems unfair to subject those still grieving to another reminder unless the film helps us to improve our understanding, thereby relieving some of the anguish. Paul Greengrass's United 93 dealt with this problem on a much grander scale and opinions about the film's efficacy were debated constantly with neither side able to convince the other. A Mighty Heart hasn't been subjected to the same debates, but the question is no less important.
Without the ability to read Winterbottom's thoughts, the central message of Heart seems to be the injustices forged by hatred and stereotypes. While the perils of ignorance is well known to many, it is a story that can't be told enough. Of course, because it is well known, it would be unfair to those grieving to convey this message in a feature-length film in most cases, but the screenplay is based on the memoir of Mariane Pearl. And this seems to emphasize the point, that informing the world of senseless violence is always more important than the pains of the individual. Mariane was often chided for not showing emotion in interviews, but she didn't want people to tune in to see a car wreck — she wanted to put the focus on the importance of journalism and educating the world. Not only is this noble, but it's absolutely a message that is worth spreading.