Both Angelina Jolie and the real-life reporter Mariane Pearl she portrays in “A Mighty Heart” are considered to be citizens of the world.
Because of their occupation and a sense of responsibility, they cross borders as though they were just lines on a map and into the company of people who, in the span of a day, may both embrace and detest their presence.
The inherent dangers of this mindset come front and center in “A Mighty Heart.” Adapted from Pearl’s book of the same title, the movie recounts the efforts to rescue her husband Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped in 2002 and ultimately beheaded by Pakistani militants.
Daniel, the South Asia Bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, is researching a piece on Richard Reid, better known as the “shoe bomber.” Nancy, six months pregnant, accompanies her husband when the story leads him to Karachi, Pakistan.
Seeking an interview with a militant Islamic cleric, Daniel, a normally cautious man, knows he is flirting with danger. Besides being a Jew, foreign reporters are often suspected of being either agents of the CIA or the Mossad (Israeli intelligence). Weighing the risk against the value of the story, he takes a leap of faith.
The meeting turns out to be a trap and the reporter is taken captive.
This is not your typical out-of-the-headlines rehash. Through Michael Winterbottom’s direction we gain an appreciation for the efforts to locate Daniel. The search leads us through a shoulder-to-shoulder population of over 10 million — tribes and factions unlikely to help each other, let alone westerners.
The suffocation is palpable. The tension makes forget that youknow the ending.
Equally gripping are the scenes of Marianne at home on the night Daniel goes missing. Hosting a dinner party, she awaits their standard procedure phone call, made every 90 minutes, when either is on assignment. She gradually senses that her husband is not just late, but in trouble, and the small talk that Winterbottom has to engage evolves into a subtle, but growing absurdity.
Jolie brings surprising dignity to the role. Maybe she relates to Marianne Pearl, because they've become friends. More likely we’re viewing someone generally hailed for her beauty, who's maturing in her craft. Her dialogue is minimal, which is understandable for a spouse under traumatic conditions. But she's masterful in her muteness.
However, the real applause must be reserved for the man who will never hear it — Daniel Pearl, who had a special sense of the responsibilities that accompanied his position. He respected the privilege of reporting for a major publication and knew that real news doesn't come from press releases and someone at a desk who heard it from someone who heard it from someone else.
He knew democracies depend on such efforts.
Lester Gray writes movie reviews exclusively for Examiner.com. Read his review of “Evan Almighty” here.