Angelina Jolie stars as the impassioned heroine at the centre of Michael Winterbottom's urgent docudrama retelling of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl's abduction by Islamic militants.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2007
Michael Winterbottom (The Road to Guantánamo) channels his gift for docudrama storytelling into this gripping account of the 2002 abduction of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl by Islamic militants in Pakistan. Of the controversy surrounding Angelina Jolie’s casting as Pearl’s pregnant wife Mariane, who is of mixed racial heritage, Winterbottom observed that trying to find an actress who was half Dutch, a quarter Cuban and a quarter Chinese was a tall order.
“That Jolie can act as well as pout is finally proved by this French-accented turn, moving and modulated, as the woman whose husband became roadkill on the roadmap to a never-never Middle East peace process. Winterbottom can do political cinema in his sleep but doesn’t allow himself to nod off here. The pace is tingling, the sense of authenticity thrilling. He and writer John Orloff resist an imaginary enactment of Pearl’s own ordeal. Daniel (Dan Futterman) is seen mostly in flashbacks, which function as agonised memory-prompts while his wife Mariane learns to convert hope to hopelessness. The Pakistani police bustle; the Anglo-American diplomats search every avenue, only to find cul-de-sacs; the ghastly videotape finally comes to light. Could Winterbottom and Orloff have given the tale a bigger acoustic? Could they – should they – have dared to give offence by letting the terrorists articulate their cause? (Guantánamo allowed Islam its say.) Probably not. The world is still too young to treat Pearl’s death as anything but the inhuman act that to feeling human beings it was. The film opts to depict a single, simple, shocking tragedy. It does so with force and skill, helped by Jolie’s impassioned heroine.” — Nigel Andrews, The Financial Times