A Private War – Film Review by Frank L.
Director: Matthew Heineman
Writers: Marie Brenner (based on the Vanity Fair article “Marie Colvin’s Private War” by), Arash Amel
Stars: Rosamund Pike, Greg Wise, Alexandra Moen
Director Matthew Heineman gave himself the not inconsiderable task of trying, in a mere one hundred and ten minutes, to reveal the essence of what made Marie Colvin the unique war correspondent that she was. She chose to go to the most violent war zones to report back to her newspaper vivid descriptions of what she saw around her. When she reached those zones she sought out the most intense areas of conflict. Her principal concern was not for the military manoeuvres themselves but for the civilians – men, women and children – who found themselves entangled and entrapped in incomprehensible violence as a result of the conflict. It was their stories that she wanted to tell by means of newsprint to those of us living far away from the horror zones. Her purpose was that there was some prospect that a wider audience may understand a little better the horror surrounding ordinary individuals caught in the vice of the violence. It was that need within her to tell to an audience far way what she was observing that drove her to relate to her audience in the hope that the members of that audience would care as much as she cared. The inevitable physical and mental danger she exposed herself to was only trumped by her unique need to tell these mind-blowing stories of horror.
Heineman shows chronologically Colvin’s reporting from various war zones including Sri Lanka and Homs amongst others. He interlaces her time in the war zones with her time back in the urban smartness of New York and London where her employment was situate. The jagged contrast between the two worlds is laid bare as she seeks to overcome the horrors which she has seen with psychiatric help but also the sheer pleasure of encounters with drink and sex. She makes a striking figure in this very different world.
Rosalind Pike plays Marie Colvin and she moves convincingly and with ease through the various milieus of Colvin’s life. It is a performance which captures Colvin’s physical bravery coupled with her human need to escape from the horrors which she had seen and her desire to have her sexual appetite sated. One Tony Shaw (Stanley Tucci) who is a man of experience and of imagination seems to have been an ideal partner. Tucci and Pike make perfect sense together.
Given that her final assignment in Homs was made into a documentary film “Under the Wire” as a result of the extraordinary footage taken by Paul Conroy who was with Colvin, much has already been seen on the screen. Here Conroy is played by Jamie Dornan and inevitably his role in this much more expansive look at Colvin’s career makes his own contribution smaller. But that is inevitable given the time span that Heineman has chosen.
Not only is this film a fine testament to the courage and integrity of Marie Colvin it is also a document that lauds the importance of her trade as a journalist by telling vile truths to a world often not overly keen to hear them. Hers was a form of investigative journalism of the most visceral type. Heineman has created a film which permits everyone to be in awe of the work of Marie Colvin and to be aware of the high toll her dedication to her craft demanded of her. Heinemen gives us an insight into how great a journalist Marie Colvin was.