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Paramount Home Video presents
A Mighty Heart HD-DVD (2007)

"You did not fail, you know? Danny is dead, but the kidnappers, their point is to terrorize people. I am not terrorized. You can't be terrorized."
- Marianne Pearl (Angelina Jolie)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: October 18, 2007

Stars: Angelina Jolie
Other Stars: Dan Futterman, Irrfan Khan, Archie Panjabi, Will Paton
Director: Michael Winterbottom

MPAA Rating: R for language
Run Time: 01h:47m:45s
Release Date: October 16, 2007
UPC: 097361317601
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B-B+A- C-

DVD Review

The DVD Review and Extras Review are by Joel Cunningham.

Before it even starts, we know how A Mighty Heart must end. Why, then, watch it at all? The movie is based on the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (played by Dan Futterman, a near-perfect match), abducted in Pakistan in 2002 while researching a story on the terrorist connections of the so-called shoe bomber, Richard Reid, beheaded in a film that was shown around the world. Angelina Jolie plays Pearl's wife Marianne, herself a journalist; the actress' skin has been darkened to reflect the real woman's Afro-Cuban descent, her French accent a little too perfect. When Daniel disappears while interviewing a suspicious source, Marianne, five months pregnant, does not fall apart, but helps the Pakistani and American agents track down the kidnappers.

The story unfolds like a police procedural. We don't see what happened to Daniel after he was taken. Instead we follow Marianne and her interactions with the sometimes indifferent foreign bureaucracy, the local counter-terrorism official (Irrfan Khan), the American special agent (Will Patton), Daniel's editor (Denis O'Hare). Jolie is at center stage, and though she gives one of her best performances, her presence, her transformation, is a constant distraction, which points to a larger problem with the film—it tells its story well enough, but it feels like the wrong story.

Director Michael Winterbottom, whose only signature style is that he has none, directs like he's making a documentary, employing hand-held digital photography and fragmented editing to tell the story in as unglamorous a fashion as possible. There are only a few "movie moments": flashbacks to the Pearls' happier times that offer a welcome respite in the darkest moments; Marianne's pained outburst after she discovers her husband's fate. Curiously, the matter-of-fact storytelling is somewhat distancing. One scene after another follows the police and special investigators as they follow one lead after another, but we never get a feel for who any of them are. Realtionships—such as the friendship between Marianne and her Indian friend Asra (Archie Panjabi)—are never really established, not to mention developed. The movie is good about not telling us what to feel, but neither does it make us feel much of anything.

And that's the real problem. As well intentioned as it is, A Mighty Heart tells the wrong story. The search for the missing reporter is the stuff of screenplays—characters pace in frustration, a whiteboard fills up with a labyrinth of indecipherable connections between possible suspects, Angelina Jolie is filled with a furious resolve—but it isn't the story we want to see. Daniel Pearl is the story. What he did, and why he did it. Marianne's story is undeniably a very human one, potentially very powerful—but by focusing on her too much, the movie feels reduced, an actor's showcase. Though we're told it's so, we don't see why the Pearls believe journalists play such a vital role in the world. We're only given bits and pieces of the story Daniel was investigating, and only the barest hint of its larger context. Most people probably don't really know what it means that Daniel was abducted while in Pakistan; if it had been Iraq, Iran, or Saudi Arabia, it wouldn't make a bit of difference to the film, which is more about the search, a process we've all seen done before and in far more cinematic a fashion. The movie coasts on the fact that we all know this is a very sad, and unfortunately very real story. But it never takes us inside it, never tells us why this story matters—it fails to connect. For such a gut-wrenching account, it's an oddly arm's-length film, engaging the head far more than the heart.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This film is a problematic one and an odd choice for HD in many ways. With its pseudo-documentary style, reliant on handheld camera work and often less-than-optimal lighting, the picture translates to a soft, grainy appearance that will almost certainly disappoint those looking for crisp HD video appearance. That said, it seems to be a reasonably good rendition of the source materials. The night sequences have good shadow detail and definition, which is the main advantage offered over a standard DVD. The frequent computer screens and the ubiquitous white eraser board writing at least come across with clarity and sharpness. The VC-1 codec is used, which is a little unusual for Paramount, which tends to opt for AVC for grainy source material such as this. The grain comes across well, without appearing sparkly or having a processed or smeared appearance. There's nothing wrong with the transfer per se, but don't expect the usual HD experience.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, French, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Paramount offers a TrueHD track in addition to three DD+ 5.1 ones. The TrueHD wins hands down, with far more depth and texture present. Conversations feel as if they're in the room with you. Again, the documentary style means voices are occasionally indistinct, but they're generally clearly placed and free of distortion. The music is effective and has nice presence.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese with remote access
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Elite
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: All of the extras are in standard definition, and are identical with those on the regular DVD.

A Journey of Passion: The Making of A Mighty Heart is a 30-minute look at the production. In separate segments for each character, the actors discuss the real people they portray, offering their feelings on acting as people who were involved in a very real tragedy. Director Michael Winterbottom discusses his somewhat improvisational shooting style and the development of the screenplay. The discussion is interesting, but strives more for insight that behind-the-scenes material.

An eight-minute featurette provides a bit of background on the Committee to Protect Journalists, while Christiane Amanpour shouts a public service announcement for the Daniel Pearl foundation, which seeks to promote understanding and tolerance across cultural divides through music, art, and journalism.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

A "feel bad" movie of the first degree, A Mighty Heart wallows in tension and, ultimately, tragedy, but doesn't offer much in the way of transcendence. The performances are good and the direction has a sense of versimilitude, but the movie isn't very insightful, or even all that interesting. It has some weight, but only because we know it's based on a true story—it's never as devastating or illuminating as it should be. Sometimes "just the facts" aren't enough. The HD transfer makes the source material look as good as it reasonably can, but it just isn't going to make a showpiece.


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