Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Mighty Heart (Not A review).. Thinking Blogger Award..

Thinking Blogger Award

I have been nominated for this award by Anali. Thank you Anali! I don't have enough words to thank you. I am humbled that you think this blog makes you think. To quote Anali..

Sanjay at Karmically Speaking always has some interesting news, stories, sometimes funny and sometimes not, mindblowing poetry, and even some cooking.

I am supposed to nominate 5 other blogs that make me think. Here is my dilemma. Every blog that I read makes me think and brings something different to the table. Each of your blogs have their own unique signatures, which make it very difficult for me to pick just 5 blogs that make me think. I guess I am going to leave it at that.

A Mighty Heart

Rated R

1 hr 43 mins


I had a chance to watch the movie “A Mighty Heart” last weekend. To those of you who may not be aware, this movie is based on the kidnapping and eventual murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl and is based on the memoir by his wife and fellow journalist Mariane Pearl.
There is more about the movie here.
I have often wondered about how much a movie based on a real life story would grab my attention. For after all, the broad outlines of this tragic episode are well known along with some unanswered questions. I was therefore very curious about how this movie would work for me at a level that was different from say one of those quick made for TV movies that clutter up that wasteland.
I have to say that this movie succeeds in it’s objective in that it is an engrossing, riveting and a touching portrait of the central characters involved in the search for Daniel Pearl covering the frantic, tension filled days from just before his disappearance to his death. The film directed by Michael Winterbottom (Welcome to Sarajevo, 24 Hour Party People ,The Road to Guantanamo). The movie has been made/shot in a quasi-documentary style thereby giving it a very authentic feel and despite knowing how it will end it will it draws you in and you feel as if you are in the thick of things.

Things that I loved about the movie..
The casting is just perfect. Yes Angelina Jolie can act. I read a few stories questioning her being cast in the role of Mariane Pearl. I wonder if the naysayers were unable to look past the glamour and celebrity hoopla around her and they overlooked her potential as an actor. I thought she more than held her own, in fact she does an excellent job portraying Mariane Pearl with a quiet intensity and steel about her, yet one can see the anguish that churns within her. From certain camera angles, she looks very much like Mariane especially with her curls and the French accent (just don’t get caught up with her pillowy lips).

Dan Futterman plays Danny Pearl, and I thought this was one of the weaker points of the movie. Not to say Dan does not do a good job, he just is not as well fleshed out, but that is just my opinion. We get to see Danny Pearl mostly via flashbacks and I don’t think I got a real sense of him as much as I would have liked.

Archie Panjabi (Bend It Like Beckham, East Is East) is excellent as Asra Nomani, a colleague of Danny Pearl and it is her rented house in Karachi, Pakistan which serves as a nerve center for the search for Danny Pearl and is also the place where Danny and Mariane lived when they visited Karachi.
The Indian actor Irfan Khan, who was seen recently in “The Namesake” (as the CID officer Javed Habib, in charge of the Pakistani team trying to find Danny Pearl) does a splendid job. He conveys a whole lot with just a gesture, a look and his eyes, quite a powerhouse of an actor.
Will Patton (Remember the titans) plays Randall Bennett from the American consulate. I read reviews about him being this shady character who frequents the murky worlds that overlap diplomacy and intelligence. I did not quite get a sense of him as being that.

There are a host of other actors American, Pakistani and Indian who inhabit this movie and contribute to it to being a really good movie.

The movie has been shot on location in Pakistan (where most of the action unfolds), the US, France and India (Pune, India where they chose to shoot in a place called the Sindh colony where a lot of people who formerly lived in Pakistan (pre partition) live).
Those of you from Bombay might appreciate the scenes served in flashback of Mariane and Danny’s time in Mumbai (Bombay), India including those of landmarks like the Gateway of India and scenes of them on one of Bombay’s commuter trains.

I cannot emphasize enough how well shooting the movie on location in Pakistan works. In captures the crowds, scenes of the place very well. One can almost feel the sense of the place it slowly seeps in to you, for me having lived in India the place felt eerily familiar given that that country has its own substantial Muslim minority population and neighborhoods. I also tried to take a step back imagining myself as being in a foreign land such as Pakistan with the teeming mass of people some of them hostile to you because you are in some ways an infidel. I can imagine what it must have meant to be the “other” there and also the challenge of finding someone in a place that always feels as if it is about to erupt.

The police work and how they go about their jobs also felt very real, including the use of torture. There is one scene where not much is shown but it is rather chillingly obvious what it happening as the cops try to get information to try and rescue Danny.

There is a whole lot I can go on about as to why the movie felt so real but in the interest of keeping this post short and not boring you I won’t.

The movie does not feel exploitative or overtly sentimental. I thought it struck the right balance there. Despite this there are a number of scenes that will be gut wrenching to watch, including the one follows when Mariane is told simply “Danny didn’t make it”.

It is however not free of its amusing moments, including one where the authorities cut off the telephone lines of the neighbors so that they can provide more lines to Asra’s place while remarking that if the neighbors need to make a call they can always come by to Asra’s place.

The film conveys to us the pain, suffering and the loss endured by those affected by terrorism and the forces of religious intolerance and hatred. It also affords us a view of how hard this fight is going to be and that there are no clear cut military solutions. There have to be multiple approaches both by us and the forces of progress and reason in the Islamic world.

This representation of Mariane Pearl’s memoir also conveys to her message about peace, understanding and the need for a dialogue between these different worlds. The members of the Pearl family are already engaged in this process via the Daniel Pearl foundation (The foundation's mission is to promote cross-cultural understanding through journalism, music, and innovative communications).

Daniel Pearl’s dad Judea Pearl has been active in this, and I recall listening to both him and Akbar Ahmed on NPR (link), (Akbar Ahmed, a leading Islamic scholar born in Pakistan, joined Judea Pearl in cities all over the US, England and Canada to lead public dialogues about the divisions between Muslims and the West and between Jews and Muslims. Their discussions ranged from policy issues to theological perceptions to truth, lies and deepest fears. This personal yet public dialogue continues to carve a path for mutual understanding between the two communities. Click here for more information.)
Their commendable efforts I hope are not lost amongst the craziness and cry for blood that one often hears.

While I liked this movie there were other voices that thought it did not quite do justice to the memory of Daniel Pearl. One voice that does carry some weight is that of Asra Nomani, his former colleague (who now teaches journalism in Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies). While I don’t completely agree with what she has to say, she raises some interesting points in her article in the Washington Post (*A* pointed out this piece to me, thanks!).

I would surely recommend watching this movie.


Id it is said...

Thanks for the write up. I was pondering upon whether to watch this one. Also, Asra Nomani's write up was quite a dampner. I can see where she is coming from, having been so closely and professionally associated with Daniel Pearl. But then what was the objective behind the movie aside from making money of course; The answer to that would help determining whether the movie is a success or otherwise. My guess is the movie did not intend to glorify Danny, but then I haven't watched it as yet, so I'll refrain from going any further.
What would your guess be on that one?

Anali said...

It is hard to pick 5 blogs, so I understand about not choosing. : )

I've heard mixed reviews about this movie, so it was good to hear your perspective. It seems to me that it would have been nice to learn more about Daniel Pearl's life before he was kidnapped. His life with his wife and what shaped him into the man he became.

Sanjay said...

@Iditis. Thank you. I agree Asra's write up is a bit of a downer if you plan on seeing the movie. However having done both, I can tell you it does not take away from the impact of the movie or its merit in any way.

I don't think the movie tried to glorify Danny at all. In my opinion.. the movie is less about Daniel Pearl. It does tell us a bit about him but not enough I thought. It is also about the senselessness of violence, it is about dignity and courage under adversity. It is about peace, the need for dialogue and that people from various backgrounds can and do work together.

The movie does not hammer home this message, but it is obvious that the group of people trying to find Daniel Pearl is truly a diverso group of people from various backgrounds.

I also tend not to look for heroes in most situation, I am afraid the word is bandied about so much in today's times that it has become a bit overused. I tend to think of people as just ordinary folks displaying the true mettle of themselves and their character when under fire.
I am probably way outside the mainstream on this one.

Lotus Reads said...

Wow, Sanjay, what an excellent and thorough write up, thank you!!!

I'm really excited we have atleast one "thinking" movie for the summer. I am hardly enamored with most of the summer offerings, so this one comes as a welcome relief!

I will confess I was one of those people that thought Jolie gets all this attention for her looks/lifestyle not her acting and I was a little worried that film-goers might not be able to separate Angelina Jolie the star from her role as Mariane Pearl,but you say she does it convincingly and for that I am glad.

I have to admit you have got me really excited about seeing this movie...now fingers crossed I can get hubby to come along with me!

Last, but certainly not least, congrats on the Thinking Blogger Award, you are more than deserving of it, but if I remember correctly, this is not your first, is it?

Again, thank you for this fine write up...I hope I get to see the movie!

Carrie said...

When I read about this movie I wasn't interested but now I am second thinking myself.

Sanjay said...

@Anali. Thank you. I agree that it would be nice to have known a bit more about Danny Pearl, but it is possible that the memoir does that better, but this being a movie based on it, only so much can be brought to screen?

Sanjay said...

Hey Lotus, thank you for your comment and kind words. How are you doing? Like you I am glad that there is a movie that makes one think out there. There are a lot more of these movies out but they are hard to find at a place close by to home you know?. I am afraid those of us who want “thinking ” movies in the summer are in a minority though.
Also what does it say about people don’t want to watch “thinking movies” during the summer? Maybe I am being too harsh here.
The movie had rather slim picking at the box office hopefully it catches on as time goes by. I agree that ppl cannot at times get past the persona of Angelina Jolie as they see in real life from her role here. But this role of hers is truly an exception.
I do think hubby will like to see this movie.
Thank you for your kind words. Yes you are right about the thinking blogger award. This is my second time around which I believe is against the rules. When Carrie nominated me, I should have put up the thinking blogger award picture. I did.. but only on the post, so there was no way for Anali to know I already was nominated. I corrected that this time. :-/

Sanjay said...

@Carrie. The overwhelming number of reviews have been good for this movie. Do let me know if you see it, I would love to hear what you have to say about it.

AVIANA said...

Thank for the write up. I strongly believe that I won't be seeing this movie any time soon.

i have my own reservations of this movie in particular of angelina being cast in the movie despite marianne pearl's approval.....and it is not because of her acting or because of her celebrity.......i'm sure it is a good movie...

have a nice day!

meno said...

Congratulations on the well deserved award. I understand completely about not picking out just 5 blogs. I did it once and i hated it.

I don't know if i can go see this movie, not because it might be bad, but because i don't know if i can take it, emotionally.

Smita said...

Very good review. Although I would have wanted to see the movie whenever it releases in India, I don't know if movies that make me sad are really worth it. Typical Hindi films are a better respite :)

Sanjay said...

@Aviana, Thank you for your thoughts. Is there a reason why you have these reservations about Angelina? I am just curious.
Take care.

@Meno. Thank you, I remember you having a hard time when you picked those 5 blogs.
I understand why you may find it hard to watch this movie.

@Smita. Thank you for your comment. I on the other hand have not seen a typical Hindi movie in ages, I have a hard time sitting thru one. :-/ But if it is something interesting I will surely try to watch it.

Beenzzz said...

Congratulation, Sanjay! You truly deserve it. :)

listie said...

Congratulations on the award; you deserve it.

I always enjoy your film reviews. I was planning on skipping this movie, but now I think I'll give it another look.

patches said...

Thanks for the Not a Review. I've been out of the movie loop for a long time. I don't watch enough TV to see many teasers. I'll look into this one, this the second mention I've read online, so after I get my head in the right place...

Congrats on the Thinking blogger award!

Lucia said...

I am totally looking forward to seeing this movie. It has all the makin's of something I'll like.

iz said...

Congrats! And thanks for the nomination! ;o)

NainaAshley said...

Good review. Another movie to add on the list of 'movies i'd love to watch but may never get to'. Also thatnks for pointing out Asra Nomani's article. That was a bit discouraging but I guess she's looking at every factual detail and not the overal impact of the movie. I wonder what Marianne Pearl thinks of the final product.

Ash said...

Excellent review. And congratulations on the thinking blogger award. Well-deserved!

ML said...

Congratulations on your blog being picked! :)

I'm glad you did a review of this movie because I've been very curious about it for a while. The only thing holding me back is Angelina Jolie, but your post indicates that she did a great job.

Sanjay said...

@Beenzzz, thank you. :)

@Listie , thank you very much. I am glad you decided to give this movie a second look. I hope it does not disappoint you.

@Patches, thank you. I know what you mean though. I hardly watch any TV, just read a lot more, which I guess is better than staring at the wasteland that TV for the most part is. I hope you like the movie if you do decide to watch.

@Lucia. I hope you really like it.

@Iz. Thank you so much.

@Ash thank you. I am humbled.

Sanjay said...

@Naina. Thank you so much. I agree with how you characterize Asra's take on the movie. *A* told me she was on NPR too, and here is a link..
Netflix is really good esp if you don't mind watching a movie in installments. I have done that a few times. :)

@Ml, Thank you. I hope you like the movie should you decide to see it.

Hollydolly said...

Incredible write up Sanjay, I read Marriane Pearl's book, a heart wrenching story. I really want to watch this movie. I really did not have any concerns with Angelina Jolie in the part of Mariane Pearl, i think she is too much of a professional, not only in her life, but in her craft to not touch this role if she felt she could not do it justice.