Last year, there was much discussion and debate about United 93 and World Trade Center, two movies that depicted the 9/11 attacks in very different ways. The former film was shot in a very naturalistic, almost documentary-like style, all the parts were played by essentially anonymous actors (or, in some cases, by the real-life people who had lived through that event), and the film ended on a sobering, ambiguous note. The latter film, on the other hand, was a more classically "Hollywood" kind of movie: major movie stars, expensive special effects, and an uplifting message.
Those two aesthetic approaches are essentially fused, with mixed results, in A Mighty Heart. The film is based on the book by Mariane Pearl—whose husband Daniel, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was abducted and murdered in Pakistan less than five months after 9/11—and it is directed by Michael Winterbottom, who has blurred the line between drama and documentary in films like In This World and The Road to Guantanamo. Winterbottom's films are often shot in a gritty, realistic fashion, and A Mighty Heart, much of which was shot on location in Pakistan, is no exception.
But this is still a Hollywood film, and how you respond to it will ultimately hinge on how you respond to the performance of its star, Angelina Jolie—and you never quite forget that it is a performance. Jolie has darkened her skin and put on a wig to simulate Mariane Pearl's multi-ethnic appearance (Pearl is part Dutch, part Chinese, and part Afro-Cuban), and she does a decent job of mimicking Mariane's Parisian accent. But no matter how deglamorized she tries to be, Jolie remains Jolie, and the sheer star power that she brings to the part keeps you at a bit of a distance.
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A Mighty Heart
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