A Private War – Review
by Daniel Mohr
While most of us would never dare to begin to imagine what life in a war zone is like, there are those among us who dare to go and see the most dangerous places in the world in the noble quest of telling the truth. A Private War tells the incredible story of Marie Colvin, one of the most celebrated foreign correspondents of all time.
The film pays a beautiful homage to Colvin (Rosamund Pike), as it focuses on the last eleven years of her life and maps her most challenging travels to the front lines in Sri Lanka, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. Her stubborn self-sacrifice earns her great respect from those she encounters, while it gives voice to the voiceless victims entrapped in the violent conflicts.
At the same time, the film also offers an insight into Colvin’s personal life. We witness her work being recognized and celebrated by her colleagues, while her love life is affected by her absence. She suffers from PTSD and the loss of an eye, but remains dedicated to her life’s work.
From a more technical perspective, A Private War, documentary filmmaker Matthew Heineman’s first feature, represents a fairly conventionally made film that does not fully exploit the imagery of depicted war atrocities and hence does not visually impress. Similarly, its structure feels repetitive and the narrative drags a little during Colvin’s off times back in London. However, the film’s biggest strengths lie with Pike’s stellar performance, as she seamlessly transforms into her character, while she also delivers one of her best feats to date.
A very balanced and respectful tribute to Colvin’s work and journalism itself, the film is an honest depiction of an unknown life under siege, morality and war ethics. Telling the story of a woman who simply wanted to make people care as much as she did, A Private War does just exactly that.