A Private War
Runtime 110 minutes
Marie Colvin (Rosamund Pike) was an American expatriate working in London as a war correspondent for The Sunday Times. While working as the first foreign journalist to enter Tamil-held Sri Lanka in six years, she was subject to a bombardment and lost the sight in her left eye.
But she is indomitable and insists that her boss, Sunday Times Editor Sean Ryan (Tom Hollander), send her back into the many frays in the Mideast.
This is no glamour role for the beautiful Pike, as she plays the hard-drinking, hard-smoking, hard-living Colvin to the hilt. In fact, it’s painful to watch what she goes through in this role.
Along the way she hires freelance photographer Paul Conroy (Jamie Dornan) to accompany her on many of her trips. She also falls for businessman Tony Shaw (Stanley Tucci) and begins an affair.
Directed by Matthew Heineman and written by Arash Amel, based on the Vanity Fair article “Marie Colvin’s Private War” written by Marie Brenner, there are a couple of nude scenes that seemed totally unnecessary to me. I’m not sure why they are there because they certainly are not sexy. I’m not even sure that it’s really Pike in the scenes because they are dark and it’s hard to identify who it is. They gain nothing for the movie and nothing would be lost by deleting them.
While the action takes place in Sri Lanka, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria, all the scenes were shot in Jordan.
There is a lot of action and some of the scenes are disturbing. But it seems as if it is a pretty faithful story of a woman who was not normal. In this film she seems drawn to danger like a magnet and used extremely questionable judgment in making decisions. The movie shows her exhibiting the symptoms of suffering from PTSD, which is not unheard of in war correspondents. That’s really the only explanation for why she kept going back.
Maybe the movie wants the viewer to feel admiration for what she did. I thought the risks she took almost foolhardy and, worse, that she disregarded the safety and well being of those who were supporting her in the danger zones, to their everlasting detriment.
But that’s what makes this a good movie. It tells the story and lets the viewer make its own determination about what it has just seen.
Here’s what Heineman said in a director’s statement about his motivation in making the film, “For me, A Private War is a love letter to journalism and an homage to Marie, who risked her life time and time again fighting to tell hard truths. It was deeply important for me to try and also capture Marie’s personal struggle and to examine the demons that plagued her mind. I didn’t want to approach the film as a biopic, but instead, an exploration of the paradoxical swirl of addictions that made Marie brilliant, but also increasingly tortured. She often struggled with the very thing that drove her – Will the world care when her words finally reach them?”
The film ends showing the devastation in Syria, something that the American public hasn’t really seen due to the poor coverage of the truth by the main- stream media. This movie is a good counterpoint to a documentary made by Evgeny Afineevsky, Cries from Syria (2017) that showed the brutality of the Assad regime and the Russians towards the poor Syrian people; Assad torturing to death innocent Syrian citizens and Russians intentionally bombing hospitals. Both should be seen to realize what’s really going on over there.
Tony Medley is an MPAA-accredited film critic. See more reviews at TonyMedley.com.