American-born Marie Colvin was an intrepid war correspondent for the London Times, and her life is depicted in this intensely dramatic “A Private War,” directed by Matthew Heineman with Rosamund Pike giving a compelling, heartbreaking performance as Colvin. More than just a bio pix, the film, written by Arash Armel based on a Vanity Fair article by Marie Brenner, speaks to us right up to the minute as a plea for the world to take notice of the atrocities against civilians being carried out daily. Colvin passionately wanted to awaken the world to the immoral killing, and the film boldly echoes her passion for truth.
The plot is structured to lead up to the city of Hom in Syria, where the film’s climax is reached in 2012. Along the way we get a picture of Colvin convincingly played by Pike. She is a tough correspondent, a woman working among men and brave in risking her life to get to the truth of warfare slaughter.
While sending back dispatches from Sri Lanka, Colvin is hit by a grenade and loses an eye. Wearing a patch, she persists in adjusting and working. Her personal life suffers from her determination to be on the battlefields. She takes sex when she needs it, without personal ties, as much as a man may do. One liaison occurs with Stanley Tucci as Tony Shaw, a character who approaches life much in the same way. But understandably, he is captivated by Colvin.
The film is filled with brutal scenes of war and unconscionable attacks on civilians by the Syrian regime trying to retake Homs from resisters. Colvin is more and more swept up in her emotional feeling that she must get the story even at great risks. Her colleagues, notably brave photographer Paul Conroy, vividly portrayed by Jamie Dornan, try to hold her back, but her compulsion leads her on.
You can consult the records to know the ultimate outcome. But the film itself is filled with mounting suspense and Pike’s driving performance makes us root for her, and if what she intended her reportage to accomplish succeeds, one will feel similarly outraged and want to see an end to the tragedies that befall women, children, fathers and mothers, apart from the soldiers committed to fighting for the causes they deem just.
“A Private War” is a big picture on a huge and profound subject and it is evident how much work went into the filming with all of the elaborate shots of war and mayhem that had to be shown. Reviewed November 2, 2018.