Michael Slezak
June 22, 2007 AT 11:51 PM EDT

Remember the innocent days, before Taking Lives and Original Sin, when Angelina Jolie (pictured, with Dan Futterman) was better known as an Academy Award-winner than as a tabloid staple? Apparently, so do most of America’s newspaper critics, who give the actress almost unanimous raves for her performance as Mariane Pearl (wife of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl) in A Mighty Heart, opening today. In fact, a few of them mention the magic ‘O’ word — and I’m not talking about Oprah. Read on…

James Ward, Gannett News Service: “…But in the end, the movie belongs to Jolie. Her fierce, simple performance is worthy of Oscar consideration. Her performance here is clearly the best of her career. There’s none of her usual on-screen vamping or self-aware performance that has made so many of her recent movies so bad. (Anyone remember her accent in Alexander? Shudder.)…”

Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald: “…. It is only at the end, when Mariane, along with the rest of the world, discovers her husband’s sad, horrible fate, that the film gives us a bolt of untethered emotion and Jolie is allowed to take over, with a display of animalistic, uncontrollable grief that probably will bring her that Oscar nomination. It’ll be well-deserved.”

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: “…. As it stands, then, A Mighty Heart leads inexorably to Jolie’s magnificent scream, which is more — deeper — than a mere Oscar-baiting moment. The film is most vivid and immediate when Jolie, her character’s patience and facade cracking, accesses a full tangle of impulses at once. She is a uniquely intense screen presence. We can only imagine what Mariane’s ordeal was like. Jolie and Winterbottom come closer than most could have in imagining it for us.”

Ed Bradley, The Flint Journal: “…. Jolie plays Mariane with a quiet strength and subdued intensity that heightens only after her husband’s fate is known….”

Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times: “…. And Jolie gives one of her finest screen performances: You can see, beneath a composed exterior, how this woman is desperately trying to keep panic at bay….”

Lou Lumenick, New York Post: “Jolie, whose offscreen antics haveconsistently upstaged her acting career since winning an Oscar sevenyears ago, puts aside her celebrity long enough to deliver a dazzlingperformance as Mariane Pearl in A Mighty Heart….”

Susan Dunne, Hartford Courant: “….Only near the end, when Jolie howls inpain at the loss of her husband, does she command, and deservedly get,a viewer’s undivided attention. It’s at this point that one realizeshow fine Jolie’s performance has been all along….”

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: “….Jolie is a star of suchsuper-stratospheric proportions that the chances of her disappearinginto a character role would seem slim at best. But she delivers arestrained, understated performance….”

Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune: “….Jolie is onscreen less thanyou’d expect, which gives each scene more impact. Through her stoicgrief and anger, you can see her psychological need to believe in theauthorities, alongside her professional suspicion that they’reinsulating her from the harsh truth. Winterbottom doesn’t provide hisstar with opportunities to showboat: her most emotional scenes are shotfrom a discreet distance….”

Bill Everhart, Berkshire Eagle: “….Winterbottom eschews easysentiment and cheap melodrama. The verisimilitude he seeks is enhancedby Angelina Jolie, whose extraordinary performance as Mariane Pearloffers proof that Jolie — megacelebrity and magazine cover staple — isan actress with serious chops.”

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: “….Critical to the emotionalconnections A Mighty Heart makes is the performance of Jolie as MarianePearl. The Oscar-winning actress, whose significant skills have beeneclipsed by her position as a tabloid favorite, puts the emphasis backwhere it belongs with a forceful, immediate and convincing performance….”

Marrit Ingman, Austin Chronicle: “….That said, Jolie is fine in the roleonce Winterbottom establishes that Mariane’s mother is Cuban, therebyexplaining Jolie’s kinky hairdo and heavy bronzer. (The French accentshe seems to command from her actual mother.) She looks great in aseries of cotton wraps, unbloated except for her bump, and she handlesa challenging scene late in the film with aplomb.”

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