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A MIGHTY HEART
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Angelina Jolie, Dan Futterman, Irrfan Khan, Archie Panjabi, Will Patton
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 108 Minutes
Release Date: March 24, 2009

“Is there anything you’d like to say to Daniel?”

“I love you.”

Film ***1/2

If you are at all familiar with the story that is examined in A Mighty Heart, then you know right away that there aren’t any surprises. It’s just the same case as watching a film like United 93. The story is already known, but the emotional depth of those experiencing the tragedies is what the audience wants to feel, and this film certainly delivers it.

The film, directed with a precise authentic feel by Michael Winterbottom, depicts the kidnapping and eventual execution of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. But the story is mainly about the plight of the reporter’s loving wife, Mariane (Angelina Jolie), as she deals with the increasingly horrific situation. The level of hope she has for her husband to return safely is what keeps her going through this difficult point.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Daniel, played by Dan Futterman, and his wife had relocated to Karachi, Pakistan. He was still reporting for The Wall Street Journal. Mariane, also a journalist, was at this point five months pregnant with the couple’s first child. It was Daniel’s trail of terrorist bomber Richard Reid in January 2002 that eventually led to his disappearance.

As word got around of Pearl’s abduction, a good number of people got involved alongside Mariane to investigate and find out who it was that took her husband. Everyone from security agents in Pakistan to Wall Street Journal reporters to even Secretary of State Colin Powell got involved. And although several of the people involved in the kidnapping were arrested, the worst possible news arrived when it was revealed that Daniel, fearless reporter and father-to-be, was beheaded on February 1, 2002.

One of the more intriguing aspects of the film is that once Daniel has been kidnapped, we don’t see much of him. But he is seen in momentary flashbacks as Mariane recollects happier times with her beloved husband. Those thoughts also help her through this most emotional time.

To give the film an even more documentary-like feel, director Winterbottom shot the movie in high def video. This, to me at least, was the best way to film it. Not only does HD present a highly original level of imagery on the screen, but also with this kind of story being told (an actual event unfolding in real time), it delivers an undeniable you-are-there feeling to the proceedings. I left me wondering how something like the brilliant United 93 might have been if shot in the same format. Would the impact be even huger?

Angelina Jolie is clearly one of the most beautiful women of our time, so beautiful that at times we forget that she is also a tremendous actress. It’s smart on her part to make a film like this to demonstrate just how powerful she can be. Without question, her turn as Mariane Pearl is her most revealing and outstanding movie performance yet. The scene where she learns of what has happened to her husband will stay with you long after the film is over.

A Mighty Heart is powerful filmmaking at its most authentic. Michael Winterbottom is a filmmaker who never stops working (he’s made at least one film yearly since 2002), and this film if anything demonstrates his passion for doing what he does. It’s also a triumph that honors the life of a brave journalist who died fearless and committed to his profession, and whose legacy lives on through his wife and son.

Video ****

This Blu-ray release from Paramount is unique in its presentation of the HD video format the film was shot in. Though the format is a love it or hate it affair, for me it’s a one-of-a-kind picture quality that offers incredible image detail. In Blu-ray, the film looks even more remarkable, and has given me hopes for future releases shot in the same format. The level of detail delivered in just about every frame is amazing to gaze upon.

Audio ***1/2

What was first a good enough sound mix on the standard DVD release has been elevated to a much more remarkable presentation by way of a Dolby TrueHD mix.  Though the film really has no more to offer in the way of sound other than dialogue, other crucial elements including occasional music playback, crowded set pieces and one scene involving a military raid all play off quite tremendously in the lossless audio track. Dialogue delivery is especially more impactful in the upgraded sound mix.

Features **

The same extras from the standard DVD release are featured here, including a most informative featurette titled “Journey of Passion: The Making of A Mighty Heart”, as well as a brief look at Committee to Protect Journalists and a Public Service Announcement.

Summary:

A Mighty Heart is quite an emotional experience made even powerful through a most superb Blu-ray presentation. Non-exploitive but simply a straightforward account of a horrific tragedy, as well as a full reminder of journalists that were, and still are, dedicated to their cause every step of the way.

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