A Private War
Directed by: Matthew Heineman
Starring: Rosamund Pike, Tom Hollander, Jamie Dornan and Stanley Tucci
Run Time: 1h 50min
Genre: Biography, Drama, War
4 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
After viewing ‘A Private War’ I was surprised to find out who produced it. Not that it was a woman producing such a serious in-depth look at war but that she could have given herself this significantly challenging role but didn’t. The character was uncommonly rich and would have given her more than an off chance at grabbing another Oscar. It was produced by Academy Award®-winning actress/producer, Charlize Theron (Monster, Tully). Charlize has nineteen producing credits to her name and with five projects at this moment in either pre or post-production, it doesn’t look as if she’s planning on stopping anytime soon.
‘A Private War’ is about a journalist and the very idea of journalism being under attack in times of war. Often times what journalists shed light on isn’t appreciated by the people being exposed. These particular regimes are covered extensively through who this film focuses on. It highlights the work of Marie Colvin, played by Academy Award®-nominee Rosamund Pike of ‘Gone Girl.’ Marie Colvin was one of the most powerful reporters we’ve ever seen. She was always brave in the face of danger. Colvin knew that it wasn’t only her responsibility but took it as an honor to tell the stories of those who could not speak and be a voice for the dead. She wanted to tell the truth when no one else cared enough to and no one else would.
Whether you think it’s a necessary evil or you believe that war is simply sanctioned murder (perpetrated by old men and their egos who send young men and women off to die), there’s no missing the fact that this film is impressive. ‘A Private War’ takes direct aim at both of those points significantly well. And the script not only makes you feel great respect for Colvin, but you also grow frustrated with her stubbornness as you get to know her. First and foremost in her life is the job she has to do. Though she sees and feels an obligation to those she loves, the loyalty to her job of reporting the facts will always take precedent. Who is she if she isn’t injecting those principles into her work and out to the world? She must describe, for her readers, the pains of others. She feels a duty to tell those who might make a difference of the terrible ills she sees. Once she absorbs the suffering and grief, she narrates it for the rest of us. As she puts it in the film, ‘I see it, so you don’t have to.’
On assignment in Iraq, she meets renowned war photographer Paul Conroy (Dornan). She enlists him to help her and, working together from there on out, he never leaves her side. They see a lot of death and it eventually takes its toll. Her time on the frontlines has revealed its scars both inside and out. She’s almost killed while in Sri Lanka but instead suffers an injury. Due to the injury she’s forced to wearing an eyepatch for the rest of her life over her now blinded left eye. She’s bothered by it but you can also see she views it as a symbol of her work and of her own struggles. And perhaps by some, knowing she’s endured the wounds of battle, she’ll be taken more seriously.
The film also affirms the deep trauma that you can’t see. Colvin’s a chain-smoking alcoholic who’s finally pressured into taking time off when she can no longer tell what’s false from what’s real. She suffers from PTSD. Admitting that alcohol quiets the voices in her head, realizes the time away is indeed needed. Paul understands what she’s going through more than anyone and knows she’s addicted to the adrenalin rush. Colvin is in a relationship with a man named Tony Shaw (Tucci) but Paul seems to be the one she reveals more to. He knows she hates war but has to see it… has to reveal it. He’s there with her when she goes to the Syrian city of Homs. Homs is getting more dangerous for them by the minute. He pleads with her but can’t convince her to leave. Armed with her story of profound anguish, she connects with Anderson Cooper of CNN and gives her final interview.
‘A Private War’ is directed by critically acclaimed documentary filmmaker Matthew Heineman who lovingly tells her story with the utmost respect and dignity. It’s entertaining and heartfelt and honest in how it acknowledges her defects but classy in making it known to all of humanity that she loved her work. I highly recommend it for the cinematography, directing, performances and for the Annie Lennox tune at the end.