‘A Private War’ – Review (And the Oscar Goes to Rosamund Pike?)

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A Private War (2018) Aviron Pictures ©

‘A PRIVATE WAR’ is a gripping biopic starring Rosamund Pike, and Jamie Dornan. Directed by Matthew Heineman, it covers the life of Marie Colvin. An American journalist who served as a foreign affairs correspondent for the British based Sunday Times. She was a fearless reporter that put herself in many dangerous situations during times of severe conflict to tell the story that would not always be told. As in her own words ‘her job was to bear witness.’ This film touches on her career as well as exploring the effects this dangerous job took on her mental-state.

Watching this film progress, I was very much able to connect with the feelings swirling inside Marie Colvin. In the sense of being able to grasp why it was so important to her to be the ‘voice of the voiceless’ as she put it. Something that was captured through a multi-dimensional performance from Pike. This film was woven with some deep emotional dynamics as it peels the layers back to who Colvin was and what fueled her. This script felt very matter-of-fact about how it portrayed Colvin. It didn’t feel like it was intending to glorify her accomplishments despite her resume deserving it. It showed a strong intent on capturing both the skill and desire of Colvin in the field. As well as the toll it took on her psyche and personal-life. As if it wanted to also capture the repercussions of the career in general through her experiences in conflict.


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I don’t claim to be a historian and I cannot talk completely on the inaccuracies of the timeline or how factual it was overall. I read up on Colvin and noticed there were some slight tweaks to the real-events in this script. But I don’t feel they diminished or overstated the accomplishments she achieved. From a theatrical aspect I felt like I got to know this person very well. I felt like I grabbed a good sense of her personality and for that, this film as a biopic was a success.

The flow of the story was nicely structured. It showcases major events in a timely fashion with a smooth pace that continually dives deeper into her career and personal-life with a nice balance. I understood for the most part why she felt the way she did. And it was compelling to see the life of a person slowly erode because of what she loved, and to an extent was addicted to. Colvin was highly intelligent. But she was also broken mentally, and this script explored those subtleties with an intriguing attention-to-detail.

Rosamund Pike delivered a world-class performance and completely disappeared inside this role. The delivery of the dialogue was skillful but surprisingly not the spotlight to me. What stole the show in my eyes was her physical acting. The emotion and turmoil she infused into the character with a visible effort. From her expressions, to her mannerisms, and the simple way she moved about, Pike embodied this role perfectly. She was able to carry the film on her shoulders and delivered the complete range of emotion, and intellect needed to capture this complex persona. Jamie Dornan was excellent as well. He fit the character-type perfectly and when needed he was able to turn on the drama. He was able to capture so many thoughts and feelings though his expressions alone that worked perfectly for the story. In addition to creating an authentic chemistry with Pike that made them even more believable in their roles.

The direction from Heineman was perfectly tailored for this story and complemented the overall tone nicely. He didn’t try to do too much with the camera. He routinely held the camera keeping the shot on the performer to let them deliver the material and with Pike in the lead the result was cliché, but without a doubt emotionally gripping. These moments where the camera would linger on the actor during emotionally strenuous scenarios were what hit with the most intensity in my opinion.

I was able to connect with their situations by putting myself in their positions. I was able to somewhat understand what they possibly were thinking as chaos swirled around them. This was complemented by the locations and backdrops which were captured with a great eye to build a strong atmosphere. They were gritty and with a great use of natural lighting I felt very immersed in the dangers of the various settings. Despite the film having some studio polish, the camerawork throughout was very intimate and raw which pulled me in completely.

This film gives an unfiltered look at being a war correspondent during times of conflict. It explores the effects that violence has on the innocent people caught in the middle. But it never felt like it was glorifying anything which I appreciated. The battle-sequences had me on edge as bullets are flying and explosions are going off. While Pike and Dornan head into the heart of it with nothing but a pad of paper, a pen, and a camera. It was incredible to watch this story evolve and it had me continually worrying about them despite already knowing the real-life outcome.

It was a riveting film that had my attention from the first minute and never let go. It showcases the best work in Pike’s career and she without a doubt should garner some awards consideration for her masterful portrayal. I do wish it had been slightly longer to fill in more of the backdrop on Colvin. To possibly look a little deeper into her life outside of reporting, and prior to her career to get a stronger connect to what motivated her. But it was still a very well-crafted film as it was and highly recommended.


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