Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Mighty Heart

I have a confession to make. I don't know what possessed me to do it...but I watched the Daniel Pearl video on an Arabic website immediately following his murder. It was singularlyTHE most disturbing thing I have ever witnessed. If I had it to do over again, I would undo watching that video. Although it stoked the fire inside of me, bringing home the brutality of the terrorists who mean our country harm, it contained imagery that will be forever seared on my brain. As a young Marine, we were shown all of the Faces of Death episodes to numb us to this sort of thing...Faces of Death doesn't come close to that video.

In that frame of mind, I brought myself to watch A Mighty Heartwith a heavy heart at the inhumane destruction of Daniel Pearl's life. When I hear people talk about Abu Graib or Guantanamo Bay with words like inhumane, I want to force those people to watch the Pearl video. A senseless killing that brings new meaning to malice. I watched A Mighty Heart with interest...watching events unfold that are not far removed from current events.

For the uninitiated, Daniel Pearl (Dan Futterman) was a reporterworking in Pakistan. He was seeking an interview with a terrorist leader known as Sheikh Gilani (played by Ikram Bhatti). Another terrorist organization, looking to kidnap an American, set up an alleged meeting between Pearl and Sheikh Gilani. The Sheikh was a lure who had no prior knowledge of the plot. Pearl is lured away from a meet spot with promises of an interview, ending up at the mercy of this terrorist group. When his wife Mariane (Angelina Jolie) realizes that Pearl is missing, she begins a frantic search for her husband.

A Might Heartexamines the Daniel Pearl abduction and murder through the eyes of his wife. The ensuing search for Pearl becomes quagmired in the normal bureaucracy, but this film does a good job of avoiding excess in this area. There are some conversations between the FBI and the Pakistani head of Criminal Intelligence where some turf protecting tension seems to surface. There is also a meeting between Mariane Pearl and a Pakistani Official who blames agent from India on the abduction, with the intent of making Pakistan look bad. These small details help set the framework for the difficulties in pursuing this type of investigation in a foreign country handling a sensitive international incident. No foreign leader likes to be embarrassed on the world stage. These issues were delicately covered by the writer, John Orloff (based on Mariane Pearl's book). The story avoids any temptation to get bogged down in details.

What A Mighty Heart delivers in lieu of cliched government bureaucracy is a tightly woven story of intrigue. The investigation into the disappearance of Pearl takes up a major portion of the film. The head of Criminal Intelligence employs every asset at his disposal to track down the last individuals Pearl was in contact with as the story unravels. IP Addresses, phone calls and informants are all employed in the search, as well as investigative techniques you would not find in the United States. Tough but effective. Unfortunately, the story was already written so I knew the ending was not good. But that did not stop Director Michael Winterbottom from inserting some excellent heart pounding action sequences into this film.

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