So with yesterday’s killing of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, I was inspired to jot down my thoughts on A Mighty Heart, a film about another episode in the all-too-recent history of terrorism in Pakistan. It would be an understatement to say that I was shocked by how much I liked this movie. After opening to generally positive views, but amidst the clutter of the summer blockbusters, I probably would never have even considered seeing A Mighty Heart had it not been for the Golden Grouches endeavor. But I’ll blame the advertising campaign from Paramount, which as I recall, pushed the film more as an Angelina Jolie drama about lost love than a taut docudrama about the fight against terrorism.

I’m disappointed that this isn’t getting more buzz for picture and director, although I’m not all that surprised considering it came out in June. Michael Winterbottom did a fantastic job of keeping things at a brisk pace without glossing over important details. This may not be a part of the director’s duties, but all of the secondary characters (especially “The Captain” and the Pakistani police) could easily have been their real-life counterparts a la United 93. And like Greengrass with his 2006 film, Winterbottom injects hot-button issues (torture, the split between radical/moderate Islam, the rampant anti-Semitism in the Muslim world) into the movie without making any superfluous conclusions or high-minded liberal aspersions on America. Paul Haggis would be wise to watch these two movies.

 I appreciated the classy way he dealt with the kidnapping and beheading of Daniel Pearl (not creating a scenario by conjecture for the former, having some tact for the latter.)

As for Jolie, it’s a race between her and Ellen Page for me at this point. She totally became Marianne Pearl, from the unwavering accent (take notes, Diane Kruger) to her omnipresence in every part of the movie. I was duly impressed even before the affecting scene when she hears that her husband has been murdered. It’s the best performance I’ve ever seen from her, and that’s counting Tomb Raider 2.

I discussed this with Jared a bit, but I was wondering whether this film’s Oscar chances would have been improved with a December release. On the one hand, A Mighty Heart got lost in the summer mix and early releases rarely have any success come nomination time. On the other hand, if it were released in the early winter, would it have gotten pigeonholed as another “war on terror” movie that would fail as a media-driven self-fulfilling prophecy?