A Mighty Heart takes an enormous gamble, and sinks or swims by it -- it tries to engage us in a meticulous police procedural, the outcome of which is already known to anyone watching the film. The film begins its action about an hour or so after Wall Street Journal South Asia bureau chief Daniel Pearl leaves his pregnant wife Mariane alone in their Karachi apartment to go to a meeting with a shady figure known as Sheik Gilani, who he suspects may have information on the 'shoe bomber' Richard Reid or may himself be a key terrorist figure. Like Daniel, Mariane is a journalist, and the two of them follow a strict procedure of regular call-ins when the other is off on a dangerous assignment. When Daniel misses one of these check-ins, Mariane springs into action, first reporting him missing to Pakistani authorities and later, to American agencies and the Wall Street Journal. Various players begin to flood into the apartment and the story, each of them taking somber mood cues from the tightly-wound, no-nonsense Mariane.

As Mariane, Angelina Jolie totes around a giant belly and a big pile of hair and sinks into the role of a traffic coordinator, constantly gauging the progress of the ad-hoc investigation into Daniel's disappearance and shuffling the other characters in and out of the main action. Early on, she creates a tree diagram on a blackboard to get a sense of where Daniel was going when he was abducted and who might have knowledge of his whereabouts. Pictures of 'persons of interest' are slapped up and yanked down. The movie demands your full attention as it unspools reams of information: names, places, events, and questions that must be answered if the crime will be foiled. I'm sure this is a true reflection of those sleepless weeks as Mariane Pearl remembered them in her book, but the sheer tonnage of investigative info A Mighty Heart presents us ends up crowding out Mariane and Daniel as people: their habits, their convictions, their unusual way of life. I know as little about those things now as I did before seeing the film.