A Private War (18) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir: Matthew Heineman, UK/US 2018, 106 mins.

Cast: Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dorman, Stanley Tucci

Review by Carlie Newman

Rosamund Pike is utterly beguiling in A Private War. She gives a completely believable performance as Marie Colvin in this film based on the true story of the journalist who was killed while reporting from Syria. Shown at the London Film Festival 2018, it is now on general release and well worth a visit.

We see Marie Colvin, complete with the eye patch she always wore following her injury in Sri Lanka in 2001. Always a hard-worker, Colvin is determined to report conflicts accurately. To do so, she thrusts herself into the midst of action in war zones. To help her, she recruits photographer, Paul Conroy (Jamie Dornan – in a completely different role from the character he played in Fifty Shades of Grey!). Not only a good photographer, Conroy understands Colvin and fully appreciates her need to report accurately. As does Stanley Tucci as her boss, Tony Shaw.

Director Matthew Heineman fully understands how important it is to show Colvin as a complete human being. Her job as foreign correspondent for the Sunday Time is her all absorbing job. But, as relief, Colvin enjoys drinking with colleagues in the evening. She also has sexual relationships.

Her last venture – and the one that led to her death- was the most dangerous that she and Conroy had undertaken. She knew that it was very likely to lead to great injury or death, but she still went ahead.

Rosamund Pike inhabits Marie Colvin. In a completely non-showy way, Pike presents a rounded character. She shows us the dedicated journalist who is obsessive about her work. Pike is able to be someone doing a job she believes in but is also a woman who, from time to time, displays interest in her own femininity and how she comes across to others.

This is what Marie Colvin says: For an audience for which any conflict is very far away, this is the reality. There are 28,000 civilians, men, women and children, a city of the cold and hungry, starving, defenseless. There are no telephones. The electricity has been cut off. Families are sharing what they have with relatives and neighbors. I have sat with literally hundreds of women with infant children who are trapped in these cold, brutal conditions, unable to feed their children anything other than sugar and water for weeks on end. 

The other real-life people in Colvin’s story are well-depicted with realistic performances, particularly from Tucci and Dorman.

The film is based on a Vanity Fair article written by Marie Brenner. It has very recently been proved that Marie Colvin’s death in Homs, Syria in 2012 was no accident, but deliberately targeted.