“A Private War” review

Marie Colvin was a hero. Well, that’s the sentiment I assume this movie wants me to have when I walk away – and its mission is successful.Portraying the award-winning journalist, Rosamund Pike carries this film about a troubled woman who brought injustices from around the globe into our First World perspectives. 

Embracing all her flaws and personal difficulties, A Private War’s greatest victory (and there are many) is to actively make us applaud everything Colvindid as a foreign correspondent. It’s based off the Vanity Fair article,“Marie Colvin’s Private War,” by Marie Brenner, which details Colvin’s work butalso her bouts with depression and PTSD. She travelled to Sri Lanka, Libya, Syria,and much of the Middle East to report on the ongoing wars – specifically how it affected the innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. “I want people to know your story,” she tells a woman in Syria, who is cradling her toddler in the middle of a war zone. Colvin’s core was founded with a desperate search for truth and justice, and every second of this film brings that quality out in vivid detail.

With a setting all about Middle Eastern conflicts (and the Western world’s involvement), one might expect A Private War to be a blatantly political film, complete with allusions to the current American climate. This is thankfully not the case. It praises and appreciates the work of real journalists, and instead of dwelling on the evil atrocities committed in war-torn regions, it provides us with emotion and empathy. Colvin teaches us to care about these souls; for one scene involving a dying child, there shouldn’t be a dry eye in the house. 

Nothing about A Private War is clean – and that’s a compliment. Colvin’s work is full of grit and danger, but her personal life is plagued with alcoholism and PTSD. The two are flawlessly cut together to represent two sides of the same coin, and we’re shown how Colvin’s passion fulfills her, despite her flaws. She went to the places no one else would to give people voices and make us aware of the sufferings in ravaged regions around the world. It’s at home where she suffers most. When she receives the accolade of “Foreign Correspondent of the Year” at the British Press Awards, the movie cuts out her speech, which we’d expect to be grand and spotless.

To portray such a flawed and emotionally complex character, you need a compelling chameleon of an actress. Enter Rosamund Pike, who delivers a career-defining performance. Pike embodies the hysteria and passion of Colvin into a succinct character, without delving into clichés or overacting. It’s almost impossible to think of Pike playing a character without etiquette or class (even her crazed character in Gone Girl had an edge of elegance), yet here she is, chain smoking and drinking her problems away as she enters obliterated cities. She’s absolutely phenomenal and deserves every Best Actress award in the next few months.

Rosamund Pike (center) carries the magnificent film "A Private War."
Rosamund Pike (center) carries the magnificent film, “A Private War.” 


I can’t ignore the technical marvels of this movie either, and coming from documentary filmmaker Matthew Heineman, much of A Private War feels incredibly authentic. It’s stylized, but not in a glamorous, Hollywood way. Brief tracking shots encompass violent shootings in their full terrifying scope, and cameras mounted on moving vehicles plop us right into the middle of ruined cities. The editing is hectic to match Colvin’s crumbling psyche, especially when we experience her distorted PTSD flashbacks. Down to the musical score and sound editing, this film is flawless, as traditional suspense music is replaced near the end with sound of dropping bombs. It’s poetic but horrifying.

Highlighting authentic journalism in the most harrowing way possible, A Private War is important viewing for 2018, and monumental in film for its systematic handling of multiple issues through a single character. Though its premise is dark and its ending decidedly cathartic, A Private War is a film to be celebrated.

Share this post