Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Mighty Heart (2007, Michael Winterbottom)

Basically, this is made up of two different stories at cross purposes with each other- a gritty true-life procedural, and a less interesting but more Oscar™-baity portrait of the Strong, Courageous Mariane Pearl. For a while, the procedural side dominates, with Mariane part of the ensemble, and even some extended scenes that don't feature her at all (e.g. the actual searching for Daniel Pearl). Alas, the prestige-picture side of the story ends up winning the day, overtaking its competition around the time Daniel gets beheaded- when Winterbottom's camera follows Mariane into her bedroom and takes in every second of her anguished cries, the movie stops working. Tight storytelling might have helped remedy this problem, but narrative tightness has never been Winterbottom's strong suit, even in his best work (hell, both 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE and A COCK AND BULL STORY seemed to take the idea of flailing about as a narrative governing principle, and bless them for that). Also, it's not that Angelina is bad in the role, or even that she doesn't disappear into it like she should- a.k.a. Nicole Kidman/COLD MOUNTAIN disease- but that her performance just doesn't mesh with the rest. Jolie's performance is very actorly, very "on," while everyone else around has been cast to type, and even the recognizable faces give naturalistic performances. Then again, Jolie has always been more of a soloist, and engagement with other people onscreen is not her strong suit, which doesn't help. Rating: 4 out of 10.

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