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Gripping drama
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With last week's news of the foiled terrorist plots in London, the specter of a terrorist attack once again looms high which makes the timing of the release of "A Mighty Heart" all the more poignant.

Told through the eyes of Mariane Pearl, played by Angelina Jolie, "A Mighty Heart," set in Karachi, Pakistan, chronicles the last days of Daniel Pearl, a noted reporter for the Wall Street Journal, who was kidnapped, held for ransom and then brutally murdered by terrorists and the desperate search by his wife Mariane, his friends at the Journal, the FBI and the Pakistani government to locate him before it's too late.

Perhaps, thankfully, the movie does not attempt to speculate as to exactly what happened after Daniel (Dan Futterman, "Judging Amy") got into a cab on Jan. 23, 2002, driven by kidnappers posing as go-betweens to a sheikh Daniel wanted to interview for a story about shoe bomber Richard Reid and his subsequent nine days in captivity before his eventual murder.

Rather the film deliberately centers on the search to find him lead by his French journalist wife Mariane who is pregnant with their first child, their friend Asra (Archie Panjabi, "Bend it Like Beckam") a fellow reporter for the Journal and Captain (Irrfan Khan, "The Namesake) who is leading the Pakistani government's efforts to find Daniel.

The docudrama style of the film suits its subject matter with director Michael Winterbottom opting to use hand held cameras to reflect better the chaotic nature of the search for Daniel. According to the film's official Web site, Winterbottom also made the decision to film in natural light whenever possible in order to give actors and crew the maximum freedom of movement.

Based on Mariane's memoir from the experience, "A Mighty Heart" is a truly remarkable film made all the more real by Mariane's close collaboration in the writing of the screenplay and involvement in the casting of the actors and director. Unfortunately the film comes short of being truly amazing.

Though the fast paced nature of the film is understandable, to audience members unfamiliar with the political climate between Pakistan, India and Israel, some aspects of the plot might be a little bewildering. In addition the back story of real life characters, particularly Indian-American Muslim journalist Asra and the imposing yet deeply committed Captain, are unfortunately not fleshed out, to the detriment of the film as they are captivating individuals.

When Asra's Pakistani boyfriend breaks up with her in the face of his family's disapproval of an Indian girlfriend, the audience gets a taste of how deep the distrust runs right now between India and Pakistan. While the relationship between Asra and her boyfriend is an example of what happens when individuals allow prejudices to get in the way of a meaningful relationship, the relationship between Mariane and Captain demonstrates just the opposite - that when individuals set aside their prejudices and work together, everyone benefits and more is accomplished.

Jolie's performance as Mariane - a singularly determined and passionate woman who in the face of the most horrible of human tragedies refuses to be terrorized - is Oscar worthy and one of her best to date. Jolie seems to live in the skin of her character and the two women's personal friendship is evidenced by Jolie's strong portrayal of Mariane.



"A Might Heart" is rated R for language with a running time of 1 hour and 48 minutes.