Movie review: A Private War
A Private War— Running Time: 1:46 — Rating: R
Few things are more interesting than exploring the personality traits of a thoroughly unusual person. “A Private War” does just that in a compelling way as it gives us a portrait of Marie Colvin, a London Times reporter whose motivations are a fascinating puzzle. Her true story is handed to us by actor Rosamund Pike under the direction of Matthew Heineman in a riveting film.
It is easy to say that this is the story of a dedicated reporter who is emotionally caught in the multiple tragedies of the Middle Eastern wars that have been killing thousands of people during recent decades. What is harder is deciphering the degree of Marie Colvin’s determination to deliver to the world, at great personal risk, the reality of the erasure of those thousands of people.
As a columnist for the Times, Colvin knows that to convey tragedy she must go to the places where it is unfolding. “You have to find the truth of it. You have to find the human cost of the act.” Colvin loses an eye in a brutal battle in Sri Lanka and goes back for more as we watch her compulsive smoking and drinking begin to swallow her. Though her friend warns that she has post-traumatic stress disorder, that never reduces her emotional need to educate the public about the tragedy of the violence.
Her editor at the Times (Tom Hollander in a quiet, terrific performance), tells her “you have a God-given talent to make people feel,” as he tries to keep her safe — to no avail. Her response to those who try to keep her home, “I feel we have failed if we don’t tell the horrors.”
By the time the film shifts to Syria in 2012, we understand on a deep level that this is a woman who refuses to live in safety while others are suffering. She watches a whole generation dying of sickness, cold and bullets without medical doctors or medicines to help them as they die. When Colvin turns from writing to broadcasting about the violence, she becomes a visible target. She dies in the field and since then, 500,000 innocent people have died.
This determined columnist gave the world the truth, but the world, upset though we may be, stops following because we believe there is nothing we can do. The power of this movie is the truth conveyed by one columnist dedicated to forcing the world to see what the Syrian regime was doing to an entire generation of innocent people.
Colvin rivets us to the truth of what unfolds in this world of death while most of us pass it by as we read the newspapers each day. Credit Pike with a performance that she developed while studying TV recordings of Colvin’s voice and way of moving. Pike studied and understood the depth of Colvin and hands her complexity to us in a thrilling way.
— Reviewed by Joan Ellis