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Laramie Movie Scope:
A Mighty Heart

A tale of courage, determination and loss

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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June 26, 2007 -- Journalists don't get much respect anymore, even when they die trying to get a big story. In movies, they are seldom seen as heroes, like they were long ago in “All the President's Men.” Sometimes, they are depicted as pure evil, as in “Natural Born Killers.” One of the rare portrayals of a journalist as a good person can be found in “A Mighty Heart,” a film about Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and his wife, Mariane. They were both journalists covering politics in the volatile, chaotic city of Karachi, Pakistan, when Daniel is kidnapped and murdered by Islamic militants connected to al-Q'aida in January of 2002.

This exceptional movie focuses not on Daniel Pearl (played by Dan Futterman of “Enough”) but on his wife, Mariane, (Angelina Jolie of “The Good Shepherd”). When Daniel disappears, Mariane uses her intelligence, courage and journalistic skills to try to get him back alive. That she failed is not due to any lack of effort by her or the many people who tried to help. The task proved impossible because of difficulty of tracking the killers in such a vast, chaotic city in the short time available. Captain (Irfan Khan of “The Namesake”), head of the Pakistani anti-terrorism forces, is shown trying his level best to run down the elusive terrorists (using ethical standards and practices that the United States used to disapprove of). Also shown doing their best to help is a friend, Asra Nomani (Archie Panjabi of “The Constant Gardener”) and a colleague from the Wall Street Journal, Steve LeVine (Gary Wilmes) and an editor, John Bussey (Denis O'Hare), who come to Karachi to help in the search. Bussey fusses over Mariane, convinced she is not eating enough (she is five months pregnant) for the baby. He arranges for a chef to come to the house to cook for her.

The movie moves along at a good pace, following Mariane and her friends in their frantic step-by-step, heartaching search for Daniel Pearl. Investigators trace Pearl's steps as he met with people who promised to take him to an interview with the notorious Sheikh Gilani, but instead kidnapped him. The interview story was part of a carefully planned trap. When the story breaks in the international press, there is a war of words, as false stories are printed, there are false leads, and false hope. The audience is taken right along on this emotional roller coaster. The kidnappers claim that Pearl is working for the CIA. When that claim is proven false, they then claim Pearl is working for the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. The kidnappers seem to be searching for any excuse to kill Pearl that will play favorably in the Muslim world. Among those trying to help find Pearl is Randall Bennett (Will Patton of “Remember the Titans”), a security official at the U.S. Consulate in Karachi. On January 23, 2002, Pearl met with Bennett to discuss his planned meeting with Sheikh Gilani. Bennett advised against it.

The movie does a good job of letting you know what it must feel like having a loved one held for ransom, then killed. It also shows that journalists are people too, and that some of them are kind, dedicated and courageous. I know a lot of you out there don't think much of journalists. Some of that is due to the fact that there are a lot of loud-mouthed critics on television and elsewhere, sitting in their air-conditioned, safe rooms, pulling down big salaries and living comfortably. From these ivory towers they have the gall to publicly criticize hard-working journalists who are out there in the mud and blood, ducking bullets and dodging bombs, trying to report what's really going on. They criticize them for not painting a rosier picture of the Iraq war, or for painting too rosy of a picture, or any number of other complaints. I don't have respect for anyone who engages in that kind of second-guessing unless they've walked a mile in the shoes of those journalists who put their lives on the line. Since Daniel Pearl was killed, over 200 journalists have been killed while doing their jobs, over 100 in Iraq alone. The death toll among journalists in Iraq is higher than it was for journalists in World War II. This film is a fair tribute to them all. This film rates a B. Angelina Jolie, by the way, gives a wonderful performance in this film, although her French accent comes and goes.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2007 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)