Hailed as one of the greatest roles in her career, A Mighty Heart only moved to put Jolie into the Oscar contender slot even further, although this wasn’t a film that got garnered much attention from critics and movie goers. Perhaps it was the overly bleak look of the film or a general need to move past dramatic film at the time, A Mighty Heart didn’t fare too well at the box office despite a solid block of reviews that painted the film as the emotional powerhouse that it is.
Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie (The Good Shepherd) “gives one of the most commanding and moving performances of her career” (Richard Roeper, Ebert & Roeper) in this shocking true story based on Mariane Pearl’s best-selling memoir. After her husband, Wall Stret Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (Dan Futterman, Urbania), is kidnapped by terrorists, Mariane (Jolie) heads a desperate search for clues in a frantic race against time to locate her missing husband. Directed by maverick filmmaker Michael Winterbottom (The Road to Guantanamo), A Mighty Heart is a gripping story of faith, hope and courage in the face of tragedy.
I missed A Mighty Heart during its original home video release and despite wanting to see it, I always seemed to find something else to mix in with my used DVD purchases. Cue the Blu-ray release and I’m given a second shot at not only watching the film but reviewing it. And now after viewing the film finally, I have to say…I am deeply moved by the story and images that this film contains. It’s easy to become jaded about these dramatic films, but when the films are so wonderfully scripted and acted as A Mighty Heart, it’s hard not to be moved by the story.
While the outcome of the story is well known at this point in time, this is one of those films that you almost wish wasn’t based on reality. You get so caught up in the world that Mariane is stuck in and her fight to find her husband and return things back to the way they were that you wish that this real-life story were fiction so that it wouldn’t be so forceful and hard to watch. Still, that’s what makes this film so engaging—despite knowing the outcome, you still grasp at the same hope that Mariane does throughout the film.
A thing I noticed about this film is that it was done almost documentary style, similar to something like The Constant Gardener or the more recent United 93 (which I also recently watched). Between that and the engrossing nature of the use of technology in the film (cell phone traces, IP backtracking…anything possible at the time that this story took place was pretty much covered here), this really didn’t feel like a film. It also helps that aside from Jolie there are no big names to grab onto here—it’s a very non-flaunting film in terms of glamorous shots or star studded casting. Very low-profile and down to earth from beginning to end, that is also something that helps make this film so emotionally charged.
Truly the acting from Jolie was nothing short of exceptional. After watching her in Changeling I wonder how she has the ability to channel such troubled characters. Both characters, based on real persons no less, lose something very close to them and the amount of anguish and torment they go through both internally and externally is simply heart wrenching. I almost yearn to see her in something more upbeat (Wanted doesn’t count because she was still pretty moody in there. And that movie was pretty shoddy anyway) again, as I can’t imagine her pulling off another film quite like this so soon after she’s played two of the most emotionally damaged individuals I’ve seen on screen in a long time.
Overall A Mighty Heart is a fantastic film but only watch it if you’re able to withstand storytelling of this magnitude. We’ve all heard the story in the press, but living with it for an hour and forty-eight minutes is quite another deal in of itself. Highly Recommended.
Previous DVD and HD-DVD owners take note: there is nothing new here so unless you absolutely need the film in Blu-ray, then you can safely bypass this release. The film arrives in a standard Blu-ray case without any slipcover or inserts (nope, not even a firmware notice) and disc art that is a simple grey wash. Menus are simple and easy to navigate.
Video for this film arrives in a VC-1 encoded transfer that looks…well…not all that great. Like its HD-DVD counterpart, the transfer is muddled with grain in an attempt (I imagine) to simulate documentary style. The only problem is it’s not consistent; so while they didn’t try to wipe away the grain (and any detail underneath it) with DNR, there is a ton of it to live with as you watch the film. Not unbearable, but not all that enjoyable either. The TrueHD 5.1 mix is, as expected, front channel driven with little in terms of surrounds to worry about. Having said that, there is a lot of surround activity if you take notice; it’s nothing that is of importance (office chatter, traffic, etc.), but it is there. French and Spanish DD5.1, as well as English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles are also included.
Moving onto the extras we have A Journey of Passion: The Making of A Mighty Heart (29:57), a general fluff piece that interviews cast and crew of the film. Committee to Protect Journalists (8:41) discusses the non-profit organization while finally a Public Service Announcement (2:08) is included. These extras are all in standard definition, with the only HD extra being the Theatrical Trailer for the film.
Overall a decent release but nothing new that you haven’t seen on past releases. And with the video being the same as the HD-DVD release as well, there’s no real viable upgrade here for the video department either. Recommended if you don’t already own it; otherwise Skip It.
A Mighty Heart arrives on Blu-ray on March 24th.