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Doing what you want to do
Brian McFarlane and Deane Williams

Despite modest financial return, Michael Winterbottom's films have been well received, critically. Virtually none of his films has been given a critical thumbs-down; equally, though, none has been a major box-office hit. His current standing in British film production is high. His latest release at time of writing, A Mighty Heart, has won golden opinions at the Cannes Film Festival and there has been talk of Oscar nomination for its star, Angelina Jolie. When he has made road movies, they have been spiked with terminal pain in each of Butterfly Kiss, In This World and The Road to Guantdnamo, and in the latter two at least, crossed with a documentary aesthetic that would seem to preclude the easy outcome of an upbeat ending. And the latter certainly also eludes his noir thriller, I Want You, and indeed most of his films.

in Michael Winterbottom
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Brian McFarlane and Deane Williams

This chapter aims to suggest some of the ways in which A Mighty Heart's lineaments mark it unmistakably as a Michael Winterbottom film. First, it strikes one at once as yet another foray into politically dangerous territory. In this respect, it reminds one of Welcome to Sarajevo, which found drama in the war-torn Balkan states of the former Yugoslavia. There is a further echo of Welcome to Sarajevo in that its protagonist is again a journalist attempting to monitor this volatility, the while preserving a core of integrity, though A Mighty Heart has less of the conventional excitement of the man-in-a-fraught-situation than the earlier film. What Winterbottom offers in A Mighty Heart is, then, a species of literary adaptation, yoked to techniques of documentary drama with an overriding social awareness - and perhaps for the first time, in the sheer physicality and emotional rigour of Jolie's performance, a star vehicle.

in Michael Winterbottom