American Marie Colvin (Rosamund Pike) is a war correspondent for the Sunday Times newspaper. Reporting from the front lines of every battlefront, she constantly stretches the line between bravery and professional bravado so as to get ‘the story’. However, when she is left blinded in one eye by a rocket-propelled grenade, her editor Sean Ryan (Tom Hollander) questions whether if she’s still fit for active duty. Caught between her own professionalism and PTSD diagnosis, Marie swears she’s ready – but is she?
… a head-long run to the truth that should still definitely be seen.
Based on the 2012 article “Marie Colvin’s Private War” in Vanity Fair, director Matthew Heineman’s dramatic debut lacks nothing for authenticity. In chronicling the real-life of battle-hardened journalist Marie Colvin, there should be no shortage of war stories to tell and yet ‘A Private War’ falls fractionally short of truly revealing its central character.
Just to be clear, it is not because of the acting. Far from it.
With Rosmand Pike in the lead role, the two words make up her name are rapidly becoming equivalent to: “full-on commitment”. Totally throwing her herself into Marie both by accent and deportment, her performance is the essential connective tissue that makes ‘A Private War’ such an uncompromising watch. Add to that, a really great turn by Jamie Dornan as war photographer Paul Conroy and a dependably sanguine portrayal of editorial diffidence by Tom Hollander and you have a film set for grit aplenty.
Constantly pushing back against the perception that she can’t or shouldn’t be doing the job that she’s doing, Rosamund Pike’s Marie is fuelled by a fear of failure as much as he is by cigarettes and gunfire. So, when ‘A Private War’ enters its final reel, you will definitely be along for the ride, because like its characters, to not be, would somehow feel dishonest to the call of injustices being perpetrated afar.
Yet, similarly stumbling under the weight of being fêted as a living legend, like Marie herself, ‘A Private War’ picks up an inability to judge distance. Consumed by its central character’s ability to make her readers stop and care, the movie stops short of examining any sense of guilt or recrimination by those pushing her forward and enabling her. It’s a moot point but also a missing beat from an otherwise stellar and sincerely rendered biopic.
You decide. In a career-best performance, Rosamund Pike certainly makes for a compelling case and visceral presence. Less reliant upon gallows humour than ‘The Bang Bang Club‘, more professionally orientated than ‘The Killing Fields‘, Marie Colvin’s ‘A Private War’ is a head-long run to the truth that should still definitely be seen.