A Private War

Directed by Oscar-nominated documentarian Matthew Heineman best known for 2017’s City of Ghosts and 2015’s Cartel Land, A Private War is one of the most powerful films depicting the horrors of war brilliantly told through the eyes of a real-life war correspondent and is elevated by the extraordinary acting performances. The story tells the true story of famed American journalist Marie Colvin, played by Oscar-nominated British actress Rosamund Pike in a career-best performance, who works for the London-based Sunday Times covering foreign wars throughout the world over the course of several decades. The film itself chronicles her riveting story from the year 2000 and through the climax of the movie in 2012 as Colvin perilously journeys to the war-ravaged city of Homs during the brutal Syrian Civil War that is still ongoing today. The talented filmmaker whose documentaries explored violent conflicts in Syria and Mexico expertly crafts what feels like extremely realistic portrayals of the hellish nature of war. Although she was not as recognized in her native country the United States, Marie Colvin was considered one of the greatest war correspondents who courageously went into extremely dangerous combat situations in order to report back to the world of the atrocities perpetrated during wartime. One of the first battle sequences shows her working in Sri Lanka in 2001 when she throws caution to the wind by being in the middle of a gunfight in which a grenade explodes resulting in her losing her left eye. Eventually, over the course of other conflicts, including the war in Iraq, she meets the famed war photographer Paul Conroy, played by Jamie Dornan, and enlists him as her partner and photographer. The true impact of the film involves the personal struggles that Colvin experiences on her trips back home to London and while on assignment as a result of her immersion in horrific conflicts. She most likely has PTSD which manifests itself in her inability to maintain romantic relationships and her propensity to drink too much alcohol. Pike’s remarkable performance shows just how fearless and complicated a figure that Marie Colvin was: she often wore a eyepatch and designer bras and could easily blend in in the high society parties of London as well as conversing with brutal dictators such as the Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi. Similar to her lifestyle, the audience is taken on an emotional roller coaster between action-packed traumatic war sequences and her somewhat more normal life back in London even though she experiences nightmares and self-medicates with alcohol. Her romantic relationships are equally as complicated as she sporadically continues a sexual relationship with her ex-husband and begins a new love affair with the wealthy Tony Shaw, played by Stanley Tucci. Showing her bravado, she often ignores the safety concerns of her editor Sean Ryan, played by the terrific British actor Tom Hollander, and ventures into increasingly life-threatening situations. In one of the most affecting war sequences in cinematic history, the heart-wrenching movie concludes with the intensely violent and catastrophic siege of the Syrian city Homs, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians caused by the Assad regime. Tragically, Marie Colvin becomes the subject of what could have been one of her many stories about the personal effects that war has on its victims. Overall, I found it to be a top-notch movie about journalism, in particular the thankless job of war correspondents who put their lives at risk on a daily basis, that is brought to life by the magnificent acting from Rosamund Pike who gives an Oscar-worthy performance. The film’s subject matter is particularly significant at a time when journalists are criticized during today’s highly divisive political climate, and it shows the importance of journalists who often risk everything in order to get a story.

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