A Private War’s a timely, intense examination of the life of award-winning journalist Marie Colvin (played by Rosamund Pike). The film details not just Colvin’s commitment and sacrifice while working as a war correspondent, but also delves into what drove her to repeatedly put her life on the line to place a human face on the tragedies of war.
Directed by documentarian Matthew Heineman, A Private War covers Marie Colvin’s time spent covering conflicts across the globe for nearly a dozen years, beginning in 2001 in Sri Lanka. Marie’s coverage of Sri Lanka, over her editor’s objections, dramatically altered her life. An ambush and explosion robbed her of one eye, but it didn’t rob her of her determination to continue her quest to expose the impact of war on men, women, and children who otherwise would be forgotten.
That desire to connect people with people rather than write about specific battles earned her worldwide recognition and prestigious awards. It also caused the chain-smoking, heavy-drinking journalist to seek treatment for PTSD.
Marie’s struggles in her personal life, largely caused by the atrocities she’d witnessed during her assignments, are also touched upon in A Private War. In one incredibly moving scene, she opens up to photographer Paul Conroy (Jamie Dornan) and reveals her fears. She confesses she hates being in war zones but feels compelled to see them for herself.
Through her assignments in Afghanistan in 2009, Libya in 2011, and Syria in 2012, Colvin continued to question the impact of her work. The biopic provides the answer and confirms Colvin’s legacy as one of the most important war correspondents of all time.
Rosamund Pike does an outstanding job of conveying Marie Colvin’s grit and nearly obsessive desire to bring to light the civilian impact of war. Pike is equally terrific in the quieter scenes when Marie’s confronting both her mental and physical scars.
Jamie Dornan’s solid playing war photographer Paul Conroy who’s at Marie’s side during multiple dangerous assignments. Paul’s an integral part of Marie’s support team, providing a sounding board when necessary and listening without judgement when she confesses her fears. It’s not a flashy role, and Dornan does well at portraying Paul as an honorable man whose courage matches Marie’s.
A Private War is being released at a time when journalists are being denigrated and their importance to a free society is being questioned. The film’s an effective, poignant tribute to not only Marie Colvin, but also by every journalist who’s ever risked their life or laid everything on the line to cover a story.
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent images, language throughout, and brief sexuality/nudity
Running Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Cast: Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Tom Hollander, Stanley Tucci, Faye Marsay, and Corey Johnson