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a private war

director: Matthew Heineman (City of Ghosts, The Third Man)

Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Tom Hollander, and Stanley Tucci


REVIEWER: lyall carter


One of the most celebrated war correspondents of our time, Marie Colvin is an utterly fearless and rebellious spirit, driven to the frontline of conflicts across the globe to give voice to the voiceless.

One of my super clear memories during the Syrian civil war was the death of war correspondent Marie Colvin. Of course I knew that journalists in conflict zones could and have been killed, but it was incredibly arresting. So when I heard that they were making a film about her life I was more than intrigued. And A Private War is a worthy tribute of the legacy of its subject. 


Celebrated war correspondent Marie Colvin is a woman who is as comfortable downing martinis with high society's elite as she is brazenly staring down warlords and fleeing from gunfire. Driven by an enduring desire to bear witness and give voice to the voiceless, Colvin charges into danger, constantly testing the limits between bravery and bravado.


Central to the film’s plot is not the conflicts that Marie Colvin covered during her long and illustrious career, but her indomitable drive. But this isn’t a sugar coated bio pic which revels in and celebrates its subjects achievements while anointing them with a cinematic halo. 


We witness the positive, worthy of praise and admiration, side to Colvin’s motivation to be amongst some of the worst conflicts in recent memory. She wanted to be there to not only tell the breadth and scope of the war she was in amongst but to tell the personal accounts of civilians caught up in it all. She had an ability to make ordinary people feel for those on the other side of the world. It drives home the more than valid point that war usually doesn’t affect the politicians that incite it, conflicts always hurts the civilians. 


But we also see the negative side of her motivation. Despite experiencing PTSD from witnessing things that no human should have to endure, Colvin had to be there. She was addicted to it and couldn’t imagine not being apart of a conflict even if it put her and others in danger. 


People were surprised that Rosamund Pike was nominated for Best Actress at the Golden Globes. Perhaps it was more to do with the fact that A Private War didn’t get the kind of publicity that other films did during award season, because it couldn’t possibly be because of the merit of her performance. It’s the best of her career and quite frankly one of the best from last year. Pike goes to places with her character that she could have overplayed; too emotional that it delves into the realm of unbelievability. 


But what Pike delivers is a fully genuine, passionate, hard as nails, yet vulnerable performance. Even though A Private War is a terrific film in its own right, this is Pike’s film. She soars. 


The other stand out is Tom Hollander. Here is an actor that can do so much with very little screen time. He is truly magnificent. Just by the by, if you haven’t caught him in BBC’s Rev with Olivia Coleman who plays his wife you’re really missing out. 

A biopic that doesn’t sugar coat its subject, A Private War is a tremendous film with a career best performance from Rosamund Pike. 


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A Private War is available on DVD and digital from all good disc and digital retailers. 

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