A Private War
Directed by Matthew Heineman
Written by Arash Amel
Based on “Marie Colvin’s Private War” by Marie Brenner
Starring Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Tom Hollander, Stanley Tucci
Each of us have a purpose on this planet. That’s not a spiritual manifesto, but rather a fact. These facts can be derived from our own experiences; the passion, the joy, the desire, the need to be driven towards a destiny. For Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin (Rosamund Pike), she was driven to report on the humans who are stuck behind enemy lines, behind the lies that governments tell the media.
She wasn’t about the story as she was about uncovering the truth. And, she did it in the most hellacious places on Earth.
Based on the Vanity Fair article, “Marie Colvin’s Private War,” documentarian turned feature film director Matthew Heineman paints the drive and determination that fueled the reporter and Rosamund Pike embodied her in an Oscar-worthy performance.
The film opens in reverse. We know her destiny. Heineman spends the rest of the film working our way forward, from Sri Lanka in 2001 where she lost eyesight in her left eye due to an RPG blast. As an audience, we knew what kind of individual Colvin was and we knew we were going to get dirty throughout the next two hours.
It is Pike’s performance that reminds us of the sacrifice she was willing to make to get the stories told that needed to be told. An American by birth, she kept her head low and she dug in, taking risks where she needed to. There’s a scene in an Army base where she meets Paul Conroy (Jamie Dornan). As they start talking to each other, you can hear in the background how many restrictions were being placed on press by the military. Once the soiree breaks up, Norm Coburn (Corey Johnson) comes up to her and they talk about the barricades that were just erected. Both know, and convey to us that their experience would dictate which way they went and that’s why Colvin was drawn to Conroy; they worked well together.
Heineman shot the film on location in Jordan and in London, creating an authentic feel to the war torn regions that Colvin visited that lends credibility to the production. It also demonstrates her mental state, something the story reflects very heavily on. Whether she is attending an awards banquet with her ex-husband in tow or she is having lunch and drinks with her editor, Sean Ryan (Tom Hollander), we can see that she is as tormented as the lands and the people she writes about.
Her fate was as shocking as her life and Heineman and his team were respectful of that and his experience as a documentarian served him well in this film. His “City of Ghosts” last year is every bit as riveting as his film here; I felt like I was watching a documentary with interpretations of Colvin’s downtime fitted in just perfectly, but that wasn’t the case. Everything made sense and that’s a tribute to Pike’s performance.
Even as we’re rooting for her, there’s a nagging feeling at the base of your neck that we can’t shake. That was one of the drawbacks of the film: we get location title cards throughout the film by way of countdown. While I appreciated knowing where we were, I didn’t need a countdown to the inevitable; it wears on us as an audience. I also felt that her relationship to Tony Shaw (Stanley Tucci) was underutilized. I appreciated the fact that he was someone who could get through to her, but even that story thread overstayed its welcome and not because of Tucci’s performance; he lights up any movie he’s in.
“A Private War,” which opens in theaters today is a timely and important film which propels us in to the internal struggles of a woman who was driven to tell the world of external struggles. Pike’s performance really sets this film apart from others.
3.25 out of 4 stars