The journalist Daniel Pearl was murdered. It got the attention of the whole world press not only because of the gruesome manner in which he was killed but primarily because of the reasons for which he was killed and the sheer audacity that the terrorists displayed in picking up a man who they believed was either a MOSSAD agent or one from the CIA. The reasons for the terrorist believing that he was an agent could be ascertained to the simple fact that the new agencies at many critical junctures handed over sensitive information that they stumbled upon to the government agencies for reasons of national security. This sent the signal to the terrorists that the foreign press in Pakistan was working as a hand of their oppressors and taking away one of them would send in the right signals.
A Mighty Heart is a graphic retelling of the incidents that led up to the death of Pearl and also the man hunt and inquiry that was launched to rescue him. Seen through the eyes of his wife Mariane Pearl, the film begins with Pearl getting the tip from a source which landed him an interview with a high catch Jihadist by the name Gilani. Pearl contacts many different sources before getting into the interview. He is told time and again that as long as the meeting happens in a public place he is good to go. He goes for the interview and doesn’t return. His wife gets anxious and she call the authorities who then launch a man hunt to nab the guys who might have picked up Pearl. Soon pictures and videos surface, showing Pearl as a captive and in depleting situations. What follows is a breathless chase after a shadow which culminates in the death of Pearl.
There is a scene just before Mariane learns of her husband’s abduction wherein some of their friends have dinner at Pearl’s place. An overhead shot of their dining table shows one seat vacant which was as presumably left for Pearl which would now forever be vacant. There is another scene where Mariane breaks out in tears and moves out of the house only to find a small kid playing in the corridor and quickly controls her emotions in front of the kid displaying a heartbreaking smile which even the kid seems to understand. A Mighty Heart is a collection of such masterstrokes which keeps coming at you scene after scene after scene. The tale unfolds at a leisurely pace and there isn’t a lot happening but each and every scene is laced with reality and potent human drama.
15 minutes into the film and you are bound to be engulfed by its narrative. The way Marcel Zyskind shoots the film is another superlative tool that raises the film to a different level. Zyskind takes a documentary style approach and yet keeps the visuals stunningly simple and easy to set your eyes in. While you will always be in the best position to watch the action unfold, you are also bound to feel the breathlessness and jostle which is a characteristic of a city like Karachi which is not only huge but also chaotic. The performances which are at the heart of the story are special in more ways than one. Angelina Jolie leads from the front as she becomes a picture of what Mariane was. She not only expresses the frustration and helplessness that Mariane must have gone through but very importantly also brings forth the indomitable spirit that characterized her way of life.
Irrfan Khan as the Chief of police does a commendable job. He is out to find Pearl not only to bring justice to a family that has been wronged but also to save the face of his country. This fact is expressed in a scene where he slaps a man when he refuses to give him some information that he seeks shouting that he need the info as his country’s honor was at stake. His desperation and his shame at what had happened to Pearl was evident in this scene. Will Patton as Randall Bennett is the next most noticeable. Archie Panjabi as Asra, Mariane’s friend and colleague is superb. She feels real in the emotions that she depicts.
A Mighty Heart is rightly named for the simple reason that it is one film which is laced with a mighty heart. It is an entertaining and terrifying retelling of the incidents that will forever remain etched in the memories of those those who followed the war. The murder of this man went on to shape the way people look at a specific country. However, in years to come this film will ensure that those who learn of this incident from this film will learn that it was a group of individuals who committed this blasphemy and not a country. That is another superb takeaway from this film. Watch it and be enthralled.