Moderator / Reviewer
- Apr 4, 2017
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A Private War
True life stories can be more interesting than fiction, and certainly more troubled. War Correspondents are legendary for having some of the most insane stories that most civilians have ever heard, and sadly have SEEN more stuff than we would ever want to see in our lives (both good and bad). A Private War documents the troubles and tribulations of one Marie Colvin, a deceased London Sunday Times war correspondent who lost her life back in 2012 during the Syrian crisis. It’s a fascinating tale about a woman who dedicated her life to tracking down the truth, as well as what this actually cost her in the end (besides her life). The movie is kind of a slice of life docu-drama, taking a slow and steady approach to her missions, never putting one as the central focus of the film, but rather watching her reactions and influences in the stories that she covered over the years.
We start the film with Marie Colvin (Rosamund Pike) heading to Sri Lank in 2001 to cover a story of dying people, only to be caught in the middle of a fire storm and losing her left eye due to shrapnel damage. Tough as nails, ruthless, and completely dedicated, Marie doesn’t let this small “problem” stop her from doing her job. She’s honored with “correspondent of the year” back home in London, but this cushy lifestyle is not what Marie signed up for. She’s a field agent and that’s where she belongs, so off she goes to cover Qaddafi, Rebels, an Arab death camp unearthed for the first time, and countless other stories.
However, these stories really aren’t the focus of her character or this movie. Instead, the film is much more about Marie’s reactions and life changes to what she’s seen. After Sri Lanka Marie starts to gain a form of PTSD, struggling to live with the images of dead people, dead children and war torn countries. Even though she’s absolutely addicted to following the truth wherever it may lead to, Marie is a fractured and torn up woman who can barely keep a hold on her mind with the calming help of cigarettes and booze (not exactly the best combination for that type of thing. However, her equilibrium is found in the Homs conflict in Syria. Determined to continue her journalism there, Marie gains confidence (enough to even remove her eye patch that she’s been fiddling with over the years), and takes a straight forward approach to not only her own mental health, but exposing the lies and corruption of President Bashar al-Assad so that the whole world can see.
The central structure of the film is a bit fractured, showing us one seemingly random story after another, interspersed with what will be known as the Homs mission throughout the narrative. We jump forward through time pretty chronologically, but the stories seem to come and go without having any narrative structure, until the final act when things start to come together. While that normally may be seen as a negative, it’s quite understandable when you realize that the individual stories she covers is NOT the main focus of the movie, but rather the focus is for us to watch Marie and see how she copes and deal with the terrors that she comes across. When the third act comes around the seemingly random nature of the first two acts makes total sense, with the viewer realizing that this was just an character development base for the first two thirds of the run time, leading up to her gigantic personal discovery and inevitable doom.
Rated R for disturbing violent images, language throughout, and brief sexuality/nudity
• Women in the World Summit Q&A: Featuring Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan and Director Matthew Heineman, moderated by Tina Brown
• Requiem for A Private War: Inspiration behind award-winning musician Annie Lennox's song
A Private War is a fascinating docu-drama that pulls no punches in showing both sides of the character coin for Marie Colvin. Usually these types of films try to lionize the hero/heroine, but this one was very content to show just how conflicted and damaged she was in her pursuit of the ultimate wartime truth. It’s a brutal look at one woman’s issues, as well as the legacy of journalism that she left behind. The film really opens up with a second viewing, allowing the viewer to look at her character rather than the supposed story, and watch how her personality changes as she gets deeper and deeper into the abyss. Universal brings us a very solid Blu-ray, with good video, great audio, but the typical anemic extras. Definitely worth checking out.
Starring: Rosamund Pike, Stanley Tucci, Jamie Dorman, Greg Wise, Alexandra Moen, Tom Hollander, Faye Marsay, Jesuthasan Antonythasan
Directed by: Matthew Heineman
Written by: Marie Brenner (Based on the article by), Arash Amel (Screenplay)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Runtime: 111 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 5th, 2019
Recommendation: Good Watch