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Alleva, Richard. "All Too Real: 'A Mighty Heart.'" Commonweal 17 August (2007): 20-21. ientId=43168&RQT=309&VName=PQD
Alleva's analysis of the film brings up two major arguments. His first is predicated on the fact that this film is itself "a work of pathos." What is important to recognize is that this film is more a story about Mariane Pearl rather than one of politics, although it surfaces in small bits. Essentially, Alleva would argue that the film is a love story, whose focus is to bring attention to a women's journey as she refuses to let her husband's kidnapping damage her spirit. One might think that the kidnappers would have played a larger role in the movie, but it was a conscious effort of the director and screenwriter to have them act as more of a paranoiac force. Alleva goes further into his analysis to state that the "invisibility" of the kidnappers in the film gives them a sort of "intangible power." Alleva asserts that the film succeeds on one level and one level only: "the sickening mixture of panic and desolation felt by Mariane as the police investigation (conducted by both Pakistani security and the FBI) keeps turning up leads without any happy results." In Alleva's opinion, comparing this film to others like Gillo Pontecorvo's 1967 The Battle of Algiers or Constantin Costa-Gavra's 1969 Z is a mistake. The former he categorizes as a story containing "ingredients of political violence with a Hegelian sense of tragedy: not a matter of pure good vs. pure evil." The latter, likewise, he feels is not comparable because there the fanatics who assassinate the virtuous politician are brought to justice, while "the capture of Pearl's murderers lies outside the scope of this film."
Banita, Georgiana. "Decency, Torture, and the Words That Tell Us Nothing." Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice, 20 (2008): 58-66.
Banita's article brings to light similar sentiments that other scholars and critics have also mentioned regarding the director's choice to eliminate the vulgar and potentially intrusive scenes of Pearl's death. As a result of this, questions are raised as to the film's effectiveness in portraying this event as a means of art, politics, and commerce. A great point that Banita brings up states that the film "also poses the larger question of whether the sensitivity over the brutal death differs according to who is bring brutalized. This is particularly important when, as in this case, the rhetorics of tolerance become the overriding issue at the expense of other considerations." This concept of tolerance is complicated because it depends on where a person aligns themselves along that spectrum. What Banita points out, drawing on Judea Pearl as a reference, is that by claiming a strict tolerance of one side, you are only paradoxically placing yourself less tolerant of those who disagree with you. What Banita tries to implicate is that it is important to understand what an image or the relevance of its display could represent to all those involved especially during a wartime period.
Jaafar, Ali. "A World without Pity." Sight and Sound 17.10 (2007): 24-26.
This article comments about how the film has been labeled with "contradictory tensions." A Mighty Heart marked for Michael Winterbottom the first film on his behalf which delved into the Hollywood spotlight in American studios. Historically known as an independent director, Winterbottom in this instance teamed up with Vantage and A-list producer Brad Pitt alongside superstar Angelina Jolie. The film is thought to be the last component of a loose Pakistan trilogy including In This World and The Road to Guantanamo. The article makes mention of the relationship between Captain and Mariane. The two shared a special bond with one another predicated on honesty, integrity and respect for human life. The fact that Captain is a Muslim, Mariane is a Buddhist, and Daniel is a Jew does not affect their relationship in a negative way. Winterbottom spoke to this relationship saying, "The film is about the relationship between the two: the small group inside the house who are making all these connections and what's going on outside, where all the energy chaos and confusion is." Captain represents a conduit for Mariane between those two dimensions. The references that Winterbottom makes to the detention camps in Guantanamo by the US were thought to play into exactly what the terrorists wanted. Daniel Pearl's father, Judea, was fearful that the film's scenes of the prison played into the "paradox of moral equivalence, of seeking to extend the logic of tolerance a step too far. Drawing a comparison between Danny's murder and the detainment of suspects in Guantanamo is precisely what the killers wanted." Winterbottom asserted, though, he felt as if he was like Daniel, a reporter only seeking to tell the truth. Winterbottom put on screen what he was told by the people he interviewed closely involved in the episode. By including those scenes, Winterbottom stated, "It's important to remind people of the time when Danny was kidnapped. Both the people in Guantanamo and Daniel Pearl are victims of the post-9/11 escalation of violence."
Nomani, Asra Q. "A Mighty Shame." Washington Post 24 June 2007: B01.
Nomani takes a very personal stance, which is to be expected. Having worked with Danny on the Journal for so long, she became a close friend, and the two shared a two-way confidant-type relationship. She remarks, "The character I saw on film was flat – nerdy, bland and boring." Because Nomani lived through this event (and is, in fact, a character in the film), she claims that the creative license that Hollywood took "reprogrammed" her memory. In Nomani's mind, Hollywood has taken something very personal and twisted it into something unlike what she knew to be true. In an effort to expose the real truths about Danny's story, Nomani has established the Pearl Project (a joint faculty-student investigative reporting project at Georgetown University), which will aim to find out who killed Daniel Pearl and why.
Pearl, Judea. "Mixed Message." New Republic 23 July 2007: 18.
Judea echoes the same sentiments that other close family and friends did of this film with respect to his son's portrayal, saying "no movie could ever capture exactly what made Danny special – his humor, his integrity, his love of humanity – or why he was admired by so many." His commentary examines what he calls moral equivalence. Judea states that the comparison of morals on both sides of such a tragedy needs to end: "There can be no comparison between those who take pride in the killing of an unarmed journalist and those who view to end such acts – no ifs, ands, or buts. Moral relativism died with Daniel Pearl, in Karachi, on January 31, 2002." For Judea, his son was the ultimate representation of moral symmetry. When speaking of his son, Judea reflects that Danny always examined both sides, was a genuine listener, and a "champion of dialogue."
Pearl, Mariane, and Sarah Crichton. A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband, Danny Pearl. New York: Scribner, 2003.
In this book, on which the film was based, the kidnapping and brutal murder of Danny Pearl is retold from his wife's perspective. Mariane Pearl, a journalist and award-winning documentary film director, alongside Sarah Crichton, former Newsweek editor and current publisher at Little, Brown, and Company, have put together a detailed account of what Mariane and all those closely involved in Danny's search experienced during the episode. Mariane and Danny had been working in South Asia together as journalists on a mission to produce good and honest reporting as a means of gaining a better understanding of ethnic and religious conflicts around the world. Danny, who at the time had been working for the Wall Street Journal, was in Karachi, Pakistan, and sought an interview that ultimately led to him being kidnapped. On the night of his abduction he had been scheduled to meet and interview with someone who was supposed to put Danny in contact with another man, by the name of Sheikh Gilani. Through this meeting, Danny hoped to uncover information pertaining to Richard Reid, the infamous Shoe-bomber. As we now know, Danny was kidnapped and held in inhumane circumstances for five weeks before being beheaded. In this account, the reader is both informed of Danny's search but also enlightened about what made Danny such a special person, both as a colleague, friend, husband, and father-to-be.
Salamon, Julie. "A Widow, But Spare the Pity." New York Times 6 Oct 2003 E1.
This article uncovers the truth about what Mariane Pearl's aims were for writing her book. Mariane was acutely aware of how easy it could have been to write a tale about the "handsome hostage husband" and the "pregnant despairing wife." Salamon notes the book as "styled as a tough-minded thriller; Ms. Pearl's search for her husband's kidnappers and killers becomes a window into the murky world of today's geopolitics at ground level, including the people who cover it." Mariane's collaborator Crichton expressed her enthusiasm for taking part in the project because of its opportunity to delve into global politics and international stories. Throughout the course of the interview, Crichton commented on how helpful Asra Nomani's notes were when putting the book together. During their investigations, Mariane and Asra put together 200 pages worth of single spaced notes that served as the backbone of Mariane's book.
Silberman, Robert. "Political Thrillers." The Political Companion to American Film. Ed. Gary Crowdus. Chicago: Lakeview P, 1994.
Silberman's article defines a "thriller" in American terms as "a film of suspense, fear, and excitement." He goes on to say, then, that a "political thriller" may represent "a thriller with a political setting, a thriller with a political purpose, or both." In his estimation, there are several types of political thrillers available. The first is referred to as a Hitchcockian model, which definitely favors the thriller aspect over the political. The second category is defined as one that would be "overtly ideological and polemical." This infers that there are two clear sides, that there is a definite distinction between the good guys and the bad. The next type of political thriller suggests a type of paranoid style. An example of such a thriller would include threats from within – from the corporation, from a federal bureau, or even the police. Along those same lines, there also exist (post-Kennedy assassination) situations where the bad guys cannot be deciphered from the good. A Mighty Heart wavers between the boundaries of many of these types of categories. In one way, the Pakistani authorities who leak Pearl's Jewish faith to the media resemble the paranoid distinction. On another hand, though, the film could be characterized by both the second definition but also the last. Mariane knows who the Islamic radicals are who have abducted her husband, but at the time before his abduction, Daniel himself could not make that distinction and those lines were not so clear. For these reasons it can be said that A Mighty Heart definitely falls under the political thriller category but which sub-category is less definitive.

See Also

Drucker, Malka, and Elizabeth Rosen. Portraits of Jewish American Heroes. New York : Dutton Children's Books, 2008.

Rollins, Peter C. The Columbia Companion to American History on Film: How the Movies Have Portrayed the American Past. New York: Columbia UP, 2003.

Rosenthal, Alan. Why Docudrama? Fact-Fiction on Film and TV. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1999.

Video/Audio Resources

Heath, David. A Song for Daniel Pearl. Quartz Music, 2007.
"Tribute to Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street journalist kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan in 2002 by Jihadi extremists."
A Mighty Heart on iaLink
Six-minute video interviewing a select number of cast members, getting their take on being involved in such a project like Daniel Pearl's story. Cast members commented on what it meant to represent these real people and do it in a way that was dignified and genuine.

Online Resources

Allison, Deborah. "Michael Winterbottom." Sense of Cinema.
Essay and filmography on Michael Winterbottom.
The Pearl Project
"An innovative investigative journalism project at Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies exploring the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002."