Saturday, December 04, 2010

[DVD] A Mighty Heart (2007)

Staying Strong

A Mighty Heart joins the growing list of films here that distributors developed cold feet about, with the promotional materials like posters and trailers already running, but we ultimately never got to see it on the big screen. I'm not sure why, given that biographies usually make their rounds here, but I can speculate it's perhaps the late Daniel Pearl wasn't a celebrity in the strictest sense to begin with, and Angelina Jolie is treated more of an cinematic action heroine this side of the world, than the more serious actress that she's acclaimed to be.

Director Michael Winterbottom follows up his documentary The Road to Guantanamo with yet another film that tackles today's hot button topic of terrorism, and that of hostage taking in hotbeds like Pakistan, where you would have already heard and read about the kidnapping of journalist Daniel Pearl (Dan Futterman) by extremists and the much publicized and condemned beheading by his captors. Shockwaves reverberated round the civilized world for this cruel act of barbarity, and there's good and common sense that this film didn't stain itself through featuring that clip because there just wasn't any merit to do so.

As a film, A Mighty Heart chronicles the timeline leading to Pearl's capture, and the aftermath in the round the clock search operations that the local police conducted, as seen through and experienced by his wife Mariane (Angelina Jollie), also a journalist and was at home with friends waiting for his return from an interview with a known terror hardman. From the get go we share her anxiety and fear even though watching this film is in retrospect, but Jolie did a remarkable job in portraying the character of strength and level-headedness, always filled with hope that her husband would be returned to her intact.

Leading the wild goose chase to establish all the dots and to connect them, is the CID chief Captain (Irrfan Khan), and through their investigations we see the meandering, quizzical nature of the web of intrigue spun by terrorists in their use of aliases and stolen identities, which makes a lockdown on who to look for all the more difficult. We see how policing in a country often portrayed as the equivalent of the wild west by Western media all the more pronounced, and tactics like threats and intimidation become staple tools of the trade, highlighting the utter chaos in the investigative police drama moments of the film.

Needless to say the highlight A Mighty Heart are the performances of both Angelina Jolie and Irrfan Khan. In Jolie's case, she puts on an accent, and portrays the stoic wife with great aplomb. Based on Mariane Pearl's book, Jolie reminded us that she has more to her than the action caricature she can play with her eyes closed, and we see her strength not only in mimicry (since some scenes are lifted from actual TV interviews), but also in the wide dramatic spectrum as the beacon of hope who has to remain strong amidst the confusion, irrationality and mayhem, to just being human when the light on the candle got snuffed out.

Irrfan Khan has seen his stock grow in Hollywood with Slumdog Millionaire, and I suppose the biggest news to date is his starring in the upcoming summer blockbuster which cannot be anymore larger than that of the reboot of the Spiderman franchise. It's a big departure of course than to always star as a policeman in a Hollywood film, and as one of my favourite character actors, I strongly encourage anyone to check out his filmography coming out from Indian cinema.

Michael Winterbottom's film puts us in the thick of the action with the filming style adopted, and this is as close as we would ever get to being right there and then when an historical event unfolded, with flashbacks to provide us the strong feeling of romance and love between a wife and husband in a hope that they will be reunited. WIth an excellent soundtrack to accompany what's a one way street to a known revelation, this film doesn't seek to exploit the event, but contributes yet another angle of victims in this wider war on terror and the need to stay strong despite adversary.

The Region 1 DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment autoplays with trailers (8:50) of Margot at the Wedding, Arctic Tale, Stardust and The Kite Runner, presented in a letterbox format. The main feature film is in presented in a widescreen anamorphic widescreen format with audio in English 5.1, or French and Spanish 2.0. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish, with scene selection over 13 chapters.

Special Features include A Journey of Passion: The Making of A Mighty Heart (30:01) which is the standard making of feature containing interviews with the director and the leading cast members discussing the characters they play, as well as some behind the scenes clips and some technical aspects like filming techniques discussed. Committee to Protect Journalists (8:40) introduces us to the committee and the origins of the organization, whose mission is to speak out when journalists anywhere in the world face persecution, and touches upon the evolving nature of a journalist's work and the protection they should get and be extended to. The Public Service Announcement - Pearl Foundation with Christiane Amanpour (2:08) explains the Pearl Foundation which was set up, and this gets played just before the main feature as well. Finally, the Previews (11:19) section includes the Year of the Dog, and everything else that is programmed to autoplay when you pop in the disc.

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