When it comes time to nominate the best actress performances of 2007, Angelina Jolie might be overlooked. Though the film is at times confusing as it rushes to release all the facts without much of an explanation, it's Jolie's take on the real-life widow of slain journalist Daniel Pearl (Dan Futterman), Mariane Pearl, that ultimately lifts A Mighty Heart up above some of the other "based on a true story" flicks that have hit screens in the past year. Featured in practically every scene of the film, it's hard to take your eyes off Jolie -- and it's hard not to lose yourself in the character, the real-life woman, who spent weeks holed up in a house awaiting word on her kidnapped husband while doing what she could to track him down herself.
By now, we all know the story and the outcome: On January 23, 2002, Daniel Pearl, a journalist for the Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped in Kirachi, Pakistan while heading to what he thought was an interview with Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani at the Village restaurant in Kirachi. At some point he was intercepted by a militant group calling themselves The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, and for the next month, a group of people (including Pearl's wife Mariane, his friend Asra, a Pakistani Captain, the FBI and others) use the house they were staying at as a make-shift headquarters as they attempt to hunt down the men responsible and find Danny before it's too late.
Eventually they find Danny, but only after a video showing his brutal decapitation had surfaced. He was later chopped up into several pieces, and his body parts were spread across Kirachi. The film, when it doesn't slow down for flashbacks of Mariane and Daniel together, in love, shovels out an enormous amount of detail that's almost hard to follow in one sitting. As they begin to re-trace Daniel's steps, it becomes apparent that more and more names are associated with his disappearance. These names are presented to us rather quickly, and spoken about at a lightening pace, so it's difficult to become familiar with them. Thus, all we're left with is Jolie's performance and the hope for an outcome we already know isn't coming.
The DVD itself doesn't help much when it comes to piecing together the puzzle, if that's what you're interested in. Apart from a Public Service Announcement and a piece on the Committee to Protect Journalists, all we get as far as extras go are your standard Making Of featurette. Mind you, that featurette is interesting to watch -- especially when it talks about the way in which director Michael Winterbottom shot the film -- but it doesn't do much else to better school the viewer in the events that unfolded. For example, I would've loved to see a breakdown of each character, and each man that was questioned. While I understand a commentary track from Mariane Pearl might have been in poor taste, something like that would have been fascinating to listen to -- especially towards the end when Jolie, as Pearl, first finds out her husband is dead and subsequently locks herself in a room for several minutes and screams.
In fact, there aren't any interviews with Pearl at all. During the Making Of featurette, they briefly show the real-life interviews that were shot with Pearl while her husband was missing, then cut to those scenes in the film with Jolie. Personally, I would've liked to watch those interviews in full (especially the 60 Minutes interview), and I also would've liked to hear more from the real people involved. Instead, all we get are interviews with the actors who portrayed these people. The film goes to great lengths to show how far away we, as United States citizens, were to the actual kidnapping and the events that took place shortly thereafter. There's a scene toward the beginning when pictures of Daniel Pearl in captivity surface, and Mariane speaks to his family who are so relieved to see him alive. Mariane, on the other hand, is in the middle of a war -- with names, and faces, and language barriers consuming every minute of every day. She knows the reality of the situation; she knows that, back in the States, photos of Daniel are part of a five-minute news segment that tells nothing of what's really going on in Kirachi. But she humors his family, and tries her best to share in their excitement that Daniel is still alive.
And that's sort of the way I felt about the DVD. They present the film -- this intimate look inside the race to find Daniel Pearl. They introduce us to all those involved, and do a fine job re-creating the entire situation in 108 minutes; it's gripping, it's powerful, it's good stuff. But it stops there. And when the film ends, you race over to the extras to learn more -- see more -- but find very little. The story is over, and they've moved on to sports. The biggest problem people will have with this film is the inability to dissect because it moves so fast; faces blur together, names are forgotten, etc ... This DVD could've made up for that by explaining more, but they chose not to. While I love Winterbottom's minimalistic shooting style (one camera, hand-held for most of the scenes), and feel it strongly benefited this film, I simply wish it didn't carry over onto the DVD's extras. But at least we have Mariane Pearl's book, for which this film was based on, to use as a guide toward learning more. Too bad a copy didn't come with the DVD.