Friday, 28 September 2007

Daniel Pearl's legacy

We caught A Mighty Heart last night at the cinema. Angelina Jolie certainly makes her presence felt as a pouting and not wholly believable Mariane Pearl in Michael Winterbottom's compelling account of the kidnap and murder of her husband, Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl (left) by Islamist terrorists in Pakistan five years ago. But the strongest performances really come from the supporting cast, especially Irrfan Khan as the industrious police chief trying to find Pearl and Archie Panjabi as an Indian journalist working for the Journal. I know that Pearl's father thought the story tried to create a moral equivalence between the kidnappers and the Americans for Guantanamo Bay. Normally I would agree with Harry's Place on these matters. Not this time. While there are a couple of short gratuitous shots of the prisoners on a TV news bulletin, it is hard to sustain the argument that this is a reflection of the whole film, which does nothing to glorify Pearl's murderers; quite the opposite. Indeed, it starkly reminds people of the brutal way Pearl was killed and celebrates his legacy. Particularly well captured are the chaos of Karachi and the extraordinary odds stacked against the Pakistani police in stamping out the Al Qaeda support networks in their cities, let alone along the Afghan border. Despite Angelina's pouting, this is well worth seeing.

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