'A Private War' tells the story of Marie Colvin (Rosamund Pike), a war correspondent for The Sunday Times who was killed in Syria in 2012. Colvin had a reputation for going where no other journalist would, and staying longer than any other journalist would stay. The movie covers her life from 2001 and her report on the struggle of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka - a trip that would cost her an eye - up to her final assignment, covering the Syrian military's bombardment of the besieged city of Homs.
It's incredible to see the lengths that war correspondents like Marie Colvin go to in order to cover conflicts, and report on the very human stories coming out of them. Director Matthew Heineman's background as a documentary filmmaker clearly came in handy, as he accurately recreates warzones from across the globe. Paul Conroy, a photographer who worked with Colvin and was with her in Syria when she died (played by Jamie Dornan in the movie), was also there to act as a consultant. It's unsurprising that this type of work can become a way of life - bordering on addiction - and yet have such a detrimental effect on a reporter's mental health. Something Heineman demonstrates perfectly with the story of a woman whose life was both exciting and terrifying - often all at once.
Rosamund Pike delivers what could easily be the best performance of her career as the very complicated Colvin. She was courageous and dedicated, yet stubborn and disorganised, and Pike expertly captures every side of this incredibly talented woman. However, it's the considerable contrast between Colvin's professional and private lives that is most shocking. You'd think she would be a mess when on assignment and more relaxed at home, but it was quite the opposite. Pike's portrayal of Colvin's struggles with alcohol - something she could simply switch off when working - and PTSD is almost unsettling in its authenticity. And it's because of this magnificent performance that we are able to grasp some understanding of who Colvin was. It's a shame then that we only catch fleeting glimpses of her life back home, especially her tricky love life. Stanley Tucci is unfortunately wasted as one of her boyfriends. But it is worth it to see some of the amazing places Colvin's career took her to during this time in her life, not to mention the fascinating yet horrifying stories she was chasing.
An astonishingly candid look at the life of a war correspondent, and their efforts to report on conflicts around the world. Marking a career best performance for Rosamund Pike, and a spectacular feature film debut for Matthew Heineman, 'A Private War' is a fitting tribute to a woman who dedicated her life to reporting the ugly truth of war.
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