It begins in Homs, Syria, where the violent thrusting of bombs shake and crumble surfaces surrounding Marie, photographer Paul Conroy (Jamie Dornan), and another fellow journalist. Before we go forward, the movie goes back, starting from Marie's earlier reporting, where she began as a war correspondent for the British newspaper The Sunday Times. Reporting from Sri Lanka, she followed the Tamil Tigers militant group, which put her in harms way, and lead to the loss of her left eye, truthfully, sending Marie down a path of no return. She is a war journalist and she sticks her nose into every conflict possible, from Iraq to Fallujah, Afghanistan to Syria, and A Private War captures the toll this life can take on a human body.
A major reason why A Private War is well-done is because director Matthew Heineman is no stranger to being a journalist that places themselves in the middle of the action. Previously, Heineman had strictly been a documentary filmmaker, putting his own life in harms way in the extremely intense Cartel Land (which earned him an Oscar nomination), and last years under appreciated City of Ghosts, which chronicled activists in Raqqa fighting ISIS. He uses all of those skills here, constantly pulling the camera back to show us the destruction, never forgetting to show us the bodies of civilians that are killed, starving from hunger, or crying for a loved one. A Private War is about Marie Colvin's life, but it's just as much about the atrocities that occur on a daily basis.
The other half of A Private War is the performance from Rosamund Pike. Her transformation is not of a Darkest Hour-style pounds of makeup, but a complete embodiment. Colvin was a woman that worked so hard her teeth fell out. The screenplay, written by Arash Amel (from the Vanity Fair article “Marie Colvin's Private War” by Marie Brenner) has a complete grasp on the psychology of Colvin's thought process, making it a graceful combination of Pike's transformation and Colvin's powerful words. Much like how Free Solo dissected the concept of fear, Colvin's fear is always present, the images she views give her nightmares, but she continues on, because she thrives on the fear, believing that others need to experience what she has been through. She forced us to care, which not enough people do today.
A Private War is important to see. Important to experience and critical to know the story. My small minor complaints are that some characters are not needed (Stanley Tucci in a very brief boyfriend role), and Pike is not given a better supporting performance around her (Dornan is not given enough to do). However, A Private War is a success. Cinema is powerful when it captures the essence of why journalism matters. The Post was a bit too glossy, but it still has an impact. Jim: The James Foley Story is another film that comes to mind, reminding us of the humanity of journalists on the ground of a war zone. These are beautiful people dedicating their lives. They are people who strive to deliver important information, document the stories that wake us up to reality. I was enthralled by A Private War. I think Rosamund Pike deserves an Oscar nomination for it and the life of Marie Colvin should be remembered by us all. She brought the wars into our homes, so her fight inside could stay private.
3 ½ STARS
Written By: Leo Brady
MOVIE: A PRIVATE WAR
STARRING: ROSAMUND PIKE; JAMIE DORNAN; STANLEY TUCCI; TOM HOLALNDER
DIRECTED BY: MATTHEW HEINEMAN
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
There are people in this world that hate journalists. One of those people, is the president of the United States of America. Similar to The Post last year, I find films about journalism to be more important today, considering the current state that our politics are in. We may dislike the 24-hour news cycle, but men and women that work hard everyday, bringing forward information about various events in the world; That is one of the pillars of our society. Sadly, a hero like Marie Colvin would be disregarded by many today, but she gave her life to finding the truth, getting the scoop that the world needed to know. A Private War brings Colvin's story to life, portrayed in a spectacular performance from Rosamund Pike. It is a film that reminds us exactly the kind of sacrifice it takes to be a war-reporter. A Private War is about the warriors of the press.