Skip to main content

Review: A Mighty Heart

In many ways, A Mighty Heart, the Michael Winterbottom film about the abduction and brutal killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl, is the antidote to The Bourne films - in this case, an American is lost in the world of terror, espionage and multicultural clash, unable to assume another identity, or use force to escape a wrongful fate.

Winterbottom, a practiced and busy British director, has borrowed the Greengrass style and intent to dazzle with movement - here the camera jerks and stutters uneasily through the busy streets of Karachi, and zooms in on faces of drained, concerned Wall Street journalists, or a torture victim, with telescopic, grainy imperfection - the screen is a rapid eye movement of colour and cut - the film is mostly about seeing the Real - ironic, and apt, as the central action is left obscene, off-scene - the ritual slaughter of Pearl, simply because he "is American". Or, more accurately, Jewish, as Pearl's moving last words prove. Journalists no doubt appreciate the film's accurate depiction of their dangerous, lonely investigations in unwelcoming lands.

Others may find the film a strange mixture of undeniable personal anguish, set against an unclear backdrop of near-contemporary foreign policy and violence. As a story of a wife, stoic and noble, the success is immense - Angelina Jolie has never been better, and, risking the crass and obvious, this seems a sure bet for an Oscar nomination, even win, for Best Actress. Her sustained wail of horror and grief (borrowed from Bergman's Fanny & Alexander) is undeniably powerful. Will Patton, an under-rated character actor of great ability, is here the vaguely sleazy US Diplomat who seems to almost revel in the unfolding drama.

However, the other, bigger picture - the relationship between the West and its often "Orientalised" enemies - is muddily presented, as if there might be a danger that, in presenting too clear a through line, uncomfortable truths might emerge - uncomfortable for America and its allies.

There is a potent ambiguity in the dogged pursuit of the kidnappers by a ruthless secret policeman (The Captain played well by Irfan Khan) working for Pakistan's government. He and his men come across as effective, to say the least. The image of the tortured suspect, hanging from a chain like meat, is a homage to the greatest political film of all, The Battle of Algiers, but also a thorn in the side of any mere apologist for wars on terror - as such wars also use terror. For a film about trying to see the truth, this is an evasive, but compelling, portrait of what stays invisible, unseen, unsaid.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

AMERICA PSYCHO

According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…

DANGER, MAN

Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…

OSCAR SMOSHCAR

The Oscars - Academy Awards officially - were once huge cultural events - in 1975, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Shirley MacLaineandBob Hope co-hosted, for example - and Best Picture noms included The Conversation and Chinatown. Godfather Part 2 won. Last two years, movies titled Birdman and Spotlight won, and the hosts and those films are retrospectively minor, trifling. This year, some important, resonant films are up for consideration - including Hidden Figures and Moonlight, two favourites of this blog. Viola Davis and Denzel Washington will hopefully win for their sterling performances in Fences. However, La La Land - the most superficial and empty Best Picture contender since Gigi in 1959 (which beat Vertigo) - could smite all comers, and render this year's awards historically trivial, even idiotic.

The Oscars often opt for safe, optimistic films, or safe, pessimistic films, that are usually about white men (less often, white women) finding their path to doing the right thin…