Irrfan Khan, Angelina Jolie Shine in A Mighty Heart

When Mariane Pearl (Angelina Jolie) wails in agony after learning that her kidnapped journalist husband Daniel Pearl will never come back, it’s one of the defining and poignant moments of this fine movie.

So far, over the previous several days the visibly pregnant Mariane’s been an unusually controlled woman despite her anguish over Danny’s kidnapping.

But when Daniel Pearl’s boss returns home one night after viewing the tape of her husband’s beheading and tells Mariane that “Danny did not make it”, the controlled emotion transforms into helpless waves of anguish, sweeping the audience along on that tide.

Playing Mariane Pearl, wife of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl kidnapped and murdered by Islamic radicals in Karachi when on an assignment in 2002, Angelina Jolie turns in a powerful performance in A Mighty Heart that should be an eyeopener to Bollywood actresses most of whom can’t act even to save their lives.

For those worried that Angelina Jolie, the celebrity and the actress would overshadow the character of Mariane Pearl, rest easy because that has not happened.

The movie proceeds at a fairly brisk pace that keeps the audience engrossed at all times. 

Indian actor Irrfan Khan, who delighted us in Mira Nair’s recent movie The Namesake, charms us once again with a solid performance as the Pakistan Police Captain Habib investigating Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping.

Irrfan Khan’s sparkling performance in Namesake and now in A Mighty Heart reveal his prowess as one of the few Indian actors of any talent. Irrfan Khan easily leaves his Bollywood peers – the Abhisheks, Shahrukhs and Hrithiks – in the shade.

Cast in the character of Daniel Pearl is Dan Futterman, who turns in an admirable performance but he doesn’t have much of a role in this film.

Let’s face it. A Mighty Heart is really not so much about Daniel Pearl as it’s about his kidnapping, the search for him and his wife Mariane Pearl.

Archie Panjabi plays Asra Nomani, Danny’s friend and journalist working on a book and in whose house the Pearls live in Karachi.

Although the story is set in Karachi (Pakistan), much of the movie was actually filmed in Pune (India) as Karachi was considered too dangerous a place to shoot the movie there.

If you listen carefully, you can hear one of the Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge songs playing in the background in a Karachi street scene.

Although Daniel Pearl was the South Asia bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal based in India and his subsequent tragic fate got widespread attention in India, it’s hard to say if A Mighty Heart will resonate with Indian movie fans.

Besides the absence of mushy songs and dances, Indian audiences might find it hard to understand how a woman can remain so composed in the face of her husband’s kidnapping considering that Indian women are given to more visible displays of emotion in the face of tragedy.

Based on the book of the same name by Mariane Pearl, A Mighty Heart is a close and heart rending look into the ground-level tragedy of one family as a result of the clash of civilizations.

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