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I remember good review of this one, so I picked it up, waiting for things to happen, but having rather completely forgotten any information I may have had about the film when it was released. The first surprise came when the director’s name showed up, and it comforted me immediately, because the day has not yet come where a Michael Winterbottom film would have let me down. The second sting of surprise came when I remembered the story, and the true story behind it. That may have been the reason why I did not watch it earlier: I do not really like real-life stories. It is much harder to make an interesting film out of those, because one key element (the ability to surprise your audience with surprise development and hold them thrilled about the outcome) is missing that is central to narration. I also find authors and directors sometimes to be rather enslaved by the facts, disallowing the fiction required to make a story become a good drama. Most biopics share the fate of being dull because the persons they depict are mostly, well, dull. Famous but dull. Ray Charles and Johnny Cash may have been exciting characters in real life, but that does not mean  their life would have followed the requirements of a good cinema narrative.

A bit similar with Daniel Pearl. If you rememer the news, you know the end. If everybody knows the end, the film must find other anchors to keep the audience interested and thrilled. Winterbottom’s tool of choice is Angelina Jolie. She is a beauty of almost indecent magnitude, and she showed before that she can be one hell of an actress. She has, together with the exotic and chaotic setting of Karatchi, to carry the whole movie. And she manages in an impressive way. She is the centre and she alone is the centre of the movie, and appropriately enough, the culmination point of the film is not whatever happens to her kidnapped husband, but the outbreak of emotion she displays when she learns about it.

It is again not the comprehensively perfect film Winterbottom has delivered, rather a piece shedding light on one specific aspect of the human drama: the ability of a strong woman to endure war against her family. This seems to be actually the interesting thing about his movies: he appears to have realised for himself  that he prefers detailed answers on specific questions rather than saving the world with his films. I hope there’s many more to come.

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