A Private War follows The Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin during some of the most pivotal moments of her career as a Foreign Affairs correspondent.
The film starts out in Homs, Syria in 2012 before flashing back to London, 2001. While her bosses wanted to send her to one country, Colvin (Rosamund Pike) believed that the Sri Lankan Civil War was the more important story. Whatever the case, Colvin’s decision would get her placed in harm’s way when she lost her left eye. While Colvin had a sense of humor about losing her eye, it wasn’t without repercussions in her personal life. Initially, Colvin rejected the idea of an eye patch because of looking like a pirate. There’s a Nick Fury joke to be made but I’m not going to go there.
The American-born journalist initially met freelance photographer Paul Conroy (Jamie Dornan, in a nice supporting turn) while waiting to enter Iraq in 2003. Defying orders, the two followed through on a story about mass graves west of Baghdad. Their cover story at the checkpoint involves one of the film’s few comical moments even as we fear for their lives. The two would continue to team up over the years. Conroy, who serves as a consultant for the film, was there when Colvin lost her life in Syria during the Arab Spring.
The film flips between London and the Middle East. The London scenes mostly depict Colvin with former Sunday Times foreign editor Sean Ryan (Tom Hollander) or friend Rita Williams (Nikki Amuka-Bird). The writer would start a relationship with Tony Shaw (Stanley Tucci). Rita is the one who questions whether her friend has PTSD. Typical of anyone, Colvin denies it. She later accepts it and checks herself in for help. The act may show some character growth but it also shows us that it should never hurt us to accept that we may have a problem.
Because Colvin’s job took her into the field during times of war and civil unrest, there are times when the images are very graphic. Nevertheless, we’re reminded of Colvin’s bravery during these times. Somebody has to go in there in order to report on the things that nobody else will. In this case, it was Marie Colvin and she died doing the very thing she loved.
Rosamund Pike is very commanding in her performance of the fallen journalist. It’s a performance that captures how fearless the reporter was in real life. While Charlize Theron was initially attached to the role, it’s honestly hard to see anyone but Pike in the role after viewing the film.
Director Matthew Heineman comes from a documentary background and he puts the same love and care into his narrative feature debut. I didn’t realize this going into the screening but it makes for some added and extra insight after the fact. What we see happen on the television is taken from the actual events. The images you see are not for the faint of heart. If this is a trigger, I’m giving you the appropriate warning as you make your decision to see the film.
Marie Colvin saw these acts up close in personal because “the human cost of the act” was important to her. A Private War makes sure that Colvin’s bravery and legacy will never be forgotten.
DIRECTOR: Matthew Heineman
SCREENWRITER: Arash Amel
CAST: Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Tom Hollander, and Stanley Tucci