A Mighty Heart (2007) 




Director:     Michael Winterbottom.

Starring:     Dan Futterman (Daniel Pearl),    Angelina Jolie (Mariane Pearl),   Archie Panjabi (Asra Q. Nomani),   Mohammed Afzal (Shabir),     Mushtaq Khan (Danny’s Taxi Driver),    Daud Khan (Masud the Fixer),    Telal Saeed (Kaleem Yusuf),    Arif Khan (Mariane’s Taxi Driver),    Tipu Taheer (Human Rights Director),    Amit Dhawan (Technical Supervisor),    Saira Khan (Nasrin),    Aliya Khan (Kashva),    Sarah Mone (Female Guest #1),    Bushra Parwani (Female Guest #2),    Zafar Karachiwala (Male Guest #1).

death of journalist for the Wall Street Journal Daniel Pearl at the hands of a terrorist group in Pakistan



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

The day after 9/11/2001 Daniel and Mariane Pearl fly to Pakistan.  Daniel, known as Danny, is the South Asia Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal, while his wife Mariane works for French Public Radio.  Thousands of journalists arrive in Islamabad to cover the war in Afghanistan. 

October 7, 2001.  The bombing begins.  The Taliban is quickly overwhelmed.  Afterwards, most of the reporters went home, but Danny and Mariane stay on to report on nuclear weapons, Al Qaeda, secrete Jihadi training camps and the million refugees still living in Peshawar, the birthplace of the Taliban. 

End of January, 2002.  Mariane is five months pregnant and ready to go home with her husband.  But Danny wants one more interview.  They fly to Karachi, Pakistan ,one of the largest cities in the world.  How do you find one man in all this humanity?

January 23, 2002.  They plan to go to Dubai after the last interview.  Danny suggests the name Adam for their future baby boy.   

Danny asks Kaleem Yusaf for advise about interviewing Sheik Gilani.  The man offers the advice that if they meet in a public place, he should be o.k.  But he adds:  "Be careful!" 

Danny wants to know the identity of a person who uses cybernet as his ISP.  While Danny heads to the interview, Mariane is at the supermarket with her friend Asra getting the food for the party that will take place at night.  She is able to speak with her husband via telephone.  But the next time she calls the telephone number does not respond.  Later people start arriving for the dinner party.  Mariane tells her guests that her mother is Cuban and her father French and she was born in France and lives in Paris. One of the topics of dinner conversation is that most Pakistanis assume that all American journalists are C.I.A. agents. 

Mariane tries her husband's telephone number again, but it is still not available.  The party ends and still no Danny.  Mariane decides to go check Danny's computer.  She finds the e-mail that set up the interview with the Sheik, but finds that the Pakistani pass names  are fake.  She does some research on the computer about the group involved:  "Community of the Impoverished Purify Islam through Violence."  It has connections to Richard Reid the shoe bomber, who tried to bring down an airplane with an explosive device in his shoe. 

Mariane is getting more and more anxious about Danny.  She and Asra start making calls; the American Consulate gets them contact with Randall Bennett; and Asra gets contact with John Bussey.  Then Mariane calls Danny's home phone to tell Ruth, her mother-in-law, and Judea, her father-in -law, that Danny is missing.  They tell Mariane to keep them informed of all the current events concerning their son.

Randall Barnett comes over to Asra's house where Mariane is staying.  Masud, an aide to Danny, tells them that a man named Arif was his contact man with the other people to get the interview with the Sheik.  Masud was with Danny at the initial meeting with the main contact, Bashir.  At a public restaurant Bashir tells Danny and Masud that the Sheik does not want to meet any journalists; all they ever write about is terrorism.   Mariane finds out that Bashir is a Jihadi (warrior in a Holy War).  Masud tries to contact Arif but without any success.  The news of the day is about the Guantanamo, Cuba detainees. 

Masud tells Mariane and the others that he won't give them the name of his contact man for Arif because the man asked him not to release his name.  But Marinane browbeats Masud into giving her the name.  They contact the man but he is of no real assistance.  Maireon Platt of the FBI is now at the house, along with Javed Habit, the chief of CID, and therefore, the man in overall command of the investigation.  They find the taxi driver that dropped Danny off at the Village Restaurant.  In the paper there is talk that Asra is an Indian spy.  Colleague Steve Levin of the Wall Street Journal arrives and gets a warm hug from Mariane.  The papers speculate that Danny is connected with the Israel secret service, the Mossad.  This really upsets Mariane because she says that if the kidnappers think Danny is connected with the Mossad, they will kill him. 

They finally receive an e-mail from the kidnappers.  The kidnappers identify Danny as a CIA officer.  Another fellow working with the group at Asra's house is John Bauman, US Consul General.  The discussion turns to the presence at one time of some 3,000 journalists in the area to cover the Afghani War.  There is speculation among the Pakistanis that the Indian intelligence agency is behind the kidnapping.  The last stop for Danny via taxi was the Hotel Akbar International. 

The task force learns that the kidnappers are from the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty.  They complain about the bitter treatment given by the US to the Islamic captives at Guantanamo.  They want better treatment for the Guantanamo captives.

There are some 73 suspects in the kidnapping by now.  The task force learns that Arif is the fellow known as Hashim.  They think they have found the man, but his family insists that he died in Afghanistan. 

January 30, 2002.  Another e-mail is received from the kidnappers.  The claim now is that Danny works for the Mossad.  The kidnappers give the United States 24 hours to meet their demands.  Mariane goes on television to speak to the terrorists.  She mentions that she has not slept in six days. 

January 31, 2002.  Secretary of State Colin Powell speaks about Danny Pearl.  He insists that the prisoners at Guantanamo are being treated humanely.  (This was before the Abu Grave prison scandal.)  The Pakistani papers give out Asra's address and telephone number, which frightens the poor woman.  A report comes in that Danny's body has been found.   It is at the morgue.  Some of the task force go see the body and find that it is not the body of Danny, but that of an Iranian student.  They call Mariane to tell her the good news. 

The police catch Sheik Gilani.  But early indications are that he is not involved or not involved directly.  He was just the bait to attract Danny. This disturbs Mariane because it indicates that the kidnappers planned the kidnapping for weeks.  The police trace one of the kidnapper e-mails to a man named Adil and another named Suleiman.  They torture Suleiman to get information out of him.  He tells them that Sheik Omar was the one who asked for the e-mail to be sent.  The police raid another house.  Now they have Farhad, Adil and Suleiman.  They then round-up another batch of people of suspects. 

The task force finds out that Bashir is Omar Saeed Sheikh.  He's with Al Qaeda.  They arrest his two cousins. 

Mariane has abdominal pain and has to lay down for awhile.  A kidnapper e-mail reports that Danny's body will be found in the graveyards of Karachi.  The police start scouring the graveyards.  The police have Omar Saeed Sheik.  They asks him if Danny is alive and he says coolly:  "I haven't a clue."  But he does answer the question about why they grabbed Daniel Pearl.  Because he was an American. 

February 5, 2002.  Omark Saeed Sheik testifies that he gave the code to release Danny, but that it arrived too late to make a difference.  Mariane does not believe him.  The police round up more suspects. 

Someone calls Mariane via Danny's phone, but he speaks Urdu.  Mariane gives Asra the phone, but the caller just hangs up on her. 

February 21, 2002.  The task force receives a camera with a recording on it.  The men watch the tape and are shocked and disgusted at what they see.  They tell Mariane:  "I'm sorry.  Danny didn't make it."  Mariane goes to her room and wails a series of "No, no, no."  Then she comes out and asks:  "How do you know?"  Because they have a tape and the kidnappers had a knife that they used in a special way that leaves no doubt.  He was beheaded.  Mariane is absolutely shocked and blurts out:  "I never, never want to see it!"

Mariane's brother arrives and is a big comfort to his sister.  Mariane gives an interview.  The interviewer asks her if she has seen the tape.  She is disgusted at the question and asks the man how he dares ask her that.

Mariane gives a dinner for those most active in the task force.  She thanks those who did so much work on the behalf of Danny and herself. 

Later Mariane learns by accident that Danny's body was cut into ten pieces. 

Farhad, Adil and Suleiman each received 25 years in prison.  Omar Saeed Sheik received the the death sentence.  He appealed the sentence.  It is alleged that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the man who executed Danny Pearl.  He was imprisoned at Guantanamo. 


A good movie covering the execution of American journalist Daniel Pearl by a group of terrorists.  The event is seen from the viewpoint of Daniel's Cuban-French wife Mariane.  This makes the movie much more interesting because we see the fright, shock, dismay and many other emotions as Mariane experiences them.  Angelina Jolie did a great job portraying Mariane.  It is hard not to sympathize with the suffering Mariane as she deals with the kidnapping and execution of her husband.  

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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