Review: A Private War

Theo Turvill reviews latest film A Private War

Theo Turvill
4th March 2019
Image: YouTube

A Private War follows the life of fearless, famed, Sunday Times foreign affairs correspondent Marie Colvin as she attests to the injustices and suffering of seemingly all modern warzones from the last 11 years from the jungles of East-Timor to the desserts Libya, and her final days as one of the last journalists covering the atrocities committed by the Assad regime in Syria.

The film offers insight into a relentlessly lived life of a women in the inner circle of London’s media elite, chain-smoking cigarettes and swilling martinis at bohemian soirées in luxurious London apartments. A real-life James Bond but with the very real demons of witnessing so much war playing havoc on her mind.

The effect is innovative in that it puts the wars we often see in the news up against a life-style we can relate to.

Marie Colvin’s character and mannerism are masterfully and meticulously portrayed by Academy Award nominee Rosamund Pike, giving the audience a full picture of this remarkable women. The film goes a level deeper representing Marie’s life in a way that gives the audience a perspective into how she viewed the world. This creates a film that is everything Marie was, charming, charismatic, rebellious, and as was her life, disorientating. The way the film is segmented, switching between Marie at war and her London life seems to have the intended effect of setting the bi-polar nature of Marie’s existence against each other. Contrasting Marie as a hero war reporter out on the front-line dodging gun fire, with her in London living the high life, dealing with what she had seen, trying to conceive a child and maintaining her relationships. The effect is innovative in that it puts the wars we often see in the news up against a life-style we can relate to, hitting home the stark differences between our everyday existence and the lives of those living in war-torn countries. The technique leads to the film feeling clumsy in places with aspects of the plot left unexplained though considering this is 35-year-old, award winning documentary filmmaker, Matthew Heineman’s first narrative feature it is surprising how well the young director has managed the transition between genres.

Journalists aim to achieve a satisfying blend in their writings between connecting to the audience on a human level while communicating the facts so as to create the greatest impact. A Private War has attempted a similar feat in a visual form and while the blend could have been smoother the lasting effect is something unique, a fitting homage to Colvin.

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