Starring: Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Tom Hollander
Director: Matthew Heineman
Running Time: 110 mins
A Private War is an American film about the career of war correspondent Marie Colvin, and her travels across the globe to document and show the world the realities of people suffering at the hands of conflict.
War and conflict are of course major topics in film, and while war correspondence itself also features on occasion, there are few films that give such an insightful, impressive and thought-provoking look into the nature of conflict as A Private War. A riveting film that blends current affairs with strong emotional drama throughout, furthered by an exceptional lead performance from Rosamund Pike, A Private War proves a thoroughly impressive presentation of the realities of life in a war zone.
One of the most interesting and unique things about A Private War lies in its strength of focus on both Marie Colvin as an individual, as well as the stories that she brought to international attention. As is mentioned on a regular basis through the film, Colvin’s intention was always to show the world the realities of people suffering in conflict, and this film carries that out brilliantly as well.
With its focus on conflicts since the turn of the 21st Century, most significantly in Iraq, Libya and Syria, the film gives an intriguing and impressively thought-provoking portrayal of modern conflicts, tying in well with current political discourses as it opens your eyes to what goes on, and is still going on, in war zones across the world.
On top of that, the film’s focus on the nature of war correspondence also makes for fascinating viewing, most particularly as it offers up a very hard-hitting and emotional display of the psychological impact of witnessing horror on such a regular basis.
And that’s where the film manages to bring in Colvin’s personal story just as well, with a strong screenplay structure that sees Colvin’s emotional struggles develop alongside her career in the field, and once again puts forward enthralling themes about the importance of war correspondence, and the hardships that come along with it.
Rosamund Pike’s performance is instrumental in making that part of the story work so well. As the film isn’t just about war and conflict, but also a deeply personal story of a fascinating figure, Pike casts a hugely impressive presence throughout, with an assured and convincingly battle-hardened performance that left me in total admiration of Colvin’s career. Not only does Pike portray the likeness of Colvin perfectly, but also gets right to the core of what made her such an impressive individual, carrying out what is certainly her best performance since her legendary turn in Gone Girl.
With all of that, A Private War proves a deeply captivating and often even powerfully affecting piece, with a strong and effective balance between the hard-hitting realities of life in the middle of conflict, and heavy-going emotional drama that builds and builds in enthralling fashion throughout.
It’s a memorable and impressive film whose themes and ideas will definitely stay with you for long after the credits finish rolling. However, there are still a couple of small issues that occasionally prove frustrating. Early on, the editing is choppy and jarring, proving a stumbling block to what is ultimately a brilliantly engrossing screenplay.
Also, the film misses the opportunity to really hammer home the most thought-provoking theme, looking at the morality of war correspondence, something that’s key to the story, but is unfortunately left a little underdeveloped, leaving me wanting to learn a whole lot more.
Overall, though, I was hugely impressed by A Private War. Above all, it’s a deeply fascinating and powerful piece of war cinema that blends a stunning portrayal of the realities of conflict with thought-provoking and emotionally hard-hitting personal drama, and with an exceptional lead turn from Rosamund Pike, it’s a film that left me entirely in awe of Marie Colvin as an individual, which is why I’m giving it an 8.1.