A Private War Review

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The actions here speak a lot louder than words.

by Sharuna Warner Feb 15, 2019 at 6:51 PM

  • Movies & TV review


    A Private War Review

    Hardly an easy watch, A Private War focuses on a woman who risked her life over and over again so that she could give voice to those who were unheard.

    Based on a 2012 Vanity Fair article by Marie Brenner, A Private War leads up to the final moments of journalist Marie Colvin’s life before she was killed while reporting in Homs, Syria. Colvin was an American born foreign affairs correspondent who worked for the The Sunday Times in the UK from 1985 until her death in 2012. Her career as a journalist saw her cover and uncover the devastating effects of war and the impact it had on the hundreds and thousands of civilian lives caught in the middle.

    A Private War focuses on the life of Marie Colvin (played by Rosamund Pike) and, in turn, the lives of journalists and photographers who go, it seems, fearlessly to the most dangerous parts of the world to report on the atrocities that would otherwise go on unseen and unheard. Having lost an eye in Sri Lanka while covering the ongoing civil war, Colvin was not deterred from continuing what appeared to be her mission - to report on the horrors of the world to those fortunate enough to be safely far removed.

    Pike is faultless as Colvin giving a brilliant performance throughout

    The film follows Colvin’s many dangerous pursuits into places that most would never dream of stepping foot into such as Syria and Iraq’s front line war-zones. Broken into chapters of sorts, there is an intermittent countdown in the film that points towards Colvin’s final 'mission'. And each of these chapters features snippets from Colvin’s life back home where she was safe from the threats of war on Western soil. There is a brilliant contrast between these two ‘versions’ of Colvin, which really shows just how good Pike is here. She is faultless as Colvin giving a brilliant performance throughout.

    When Pike is playing the reporting Colvin she is strong, brave and utterly fearless, completely focused on the job at hand. Even looking drastically different physically, featuring unkempt hair and cargo trousers. But when we see Colvin at home, we get a glimpse of the trauma that she has brought back with her that has taken up residence in the depths of her mind. We’re shown the way it impacts her mentally behind closed doors, despite on the surface looking like a successful, celebrated and award winning journalist who has it all together.

    A Private War
    Director Matthew Heineman does a fantastic job at delivering a powerful depiction of war torn countries and giving insight into just how dangerous it was for these people to risk their lives in an effort to document and get these moments down on paper. A background in documentary filmmaking has no doubt influenced his approach here as it does oftentimes feel like you’re in the backseat of a moving vehicle as it approaches a boarder with armed guards. The feelings of fear and anxiousness transcend the screen and work to embed the audience within the events.

    The extremely realistic portrayal of war and those who are affected by it is what makes this film so good. The actions here speak a lot louder than words. And at times, it is the script that trips up a bit and doesn’t quite do justice to what is happening on screen. That said, this can be forgiven because the acting from all is unquestionable, from those in leading roles to those who are offering a brief insight into living or fighting within a war-zone. The film assumes that the news stories that Colvin covers are common knowledge for the audience and any in depth political explanation is avoided. Thankfully though, an indexical knowledge of these events isn’t required as the film still remains a solid and astute piece of work and hits the nail on the head when it comes to dealing with the subject matter.

    The extremely realistic portrayal of war and those affected by it is what makes this film so good

    The film does run the risk of placing Pike’s Colvin on a pedestal in a martyr like position. This is only enhanced by the use of supporting cast who are there in the background and are only used to bolster Pike’s Colvin. In spite of this, the supporting cast, when given the opportunity, fit within the realm of the film to help shed light on Colvin’s character. Her editor Sean Ryan (Tom Hollander) brings out the workaholic, force not to be reckoned with side; while her best friend Rita (Nikki Amuka-Bird) acts as her level headed anchor; and co-worker and friend, freelance photographer Paul Conroy (Jamie Dornan) is able to bring out her vulnerable side having experienced the effects of PTSD himself.

    More biographical life story than more conventionally entertaining dramatic cinema, A Private War isn’t an easy watch by any stretch. It skips the potential to get bogged down by lengthy political explanation and instead focuses on a very remarkable and brave woman who risked her life over and over again so that she could give voice to those who were unheard.

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