Cast: Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Stanley Tucci, Tom Hollander
Director: Matthew Heineman
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: In a world where journalism is under attack, Marie Colvin (Academy Award nominee Rosamund Pike) is one of the most celebrated war correspondents of our time. Colvin is an utterly fearless and rebellious spirit, driven to the frontlines of conflicts across the globe to give voice to the voiceless, while constantly testing the limits between bravery and bravado. After being hit by a grenade in Sri Lanka, she wears a distinctive eye patch and is still as comfortable sipping martinis with London’s elite as she is confronting dictators. Colvin sacrifices loving relationships, and over time, her personal life starts to unravel as the trauma she’s witnessed takes its toll. Yet, her mission to show the true cost of war leads her — along with renowned war photographer Paul Conroy (Jamie Dornan) — to embark on the most dangerous assignment of their lives in the besieged Syrian city of Homs. Based on the extraordinary life of Marie Colvin, A PRIVATE WAR is brought to the screen by Academy Award nominee and critically acclaimed documentary filmmaker Matthew Heineman in his pulse-pounding narrative feature debut.
In a season where we get multiple movies released that are considered tough to watch, A Private War adds to this category and may be the toughest one out of all of them. Naturally any movie that takes place in war zones will have its dramatic moments, but this one has some of the most intense moments of 2018. Lead by an elite performance by Pike and a strong supporting role from Dornan, A Private War may not be getting a whole lot of attention at the box office, but it is absolutely worth a viewing to see just how horrific the situations are in other parts of the world and how fortunate we are to be living with what we have now.
The film follows Marie Colvin (Pike), a war correspondent who travels to various countries to document the horrors of war and the atrocities that are being committed. As a result of her work, Marie suffers from PTSD and copes with it by drowning her pain with alcohol. So between dodging bullets and rockets during her reports abroad, Marie has to deal with her trauma on a daily basis and may never be the person she was before witnessing these actions. The thing that makes this movie stand out amongst its peers are the performances by Pike and Dornan. Predominantly, we see films regarding PTSD generally starring a male lead who was an American soldier. If there is a female character, they usually the supporting wife who has trouble connecting with her husband’s issues. I applaud A Private War for mixing things up and showing us the true story of what a woman went through in similar circumstances. Very few actresses could pull off such a brutal role like this one, but Pike was absolutely the right choice for this job. If you were questioning whether or not Pike is an elite actress, after watching this film you will have no doubt that she is one of the best in the industry. The pivotal moment in this film is what I like to call, “the paradox speech,” and this is where Pike is on full display of what it means to be a true lead. This monologue discusses the difficulties we face in Western society and compares them to that of the issues in war-torn nations something to the extent of, “I diet so I don’t get fat, but then I see kids starving and I like to eat.” The whole monologue stuck with me long after the movie ended and helped me refocus on just what is important in life and that there are many people out there in the world that have it much worse than I do. Pike is not only superb in her more vocal parts, but she can stand her ground in any of the physical scenes as well. Outside of Pike, the performance of Dornan was an unexpected yet welcomed surprise. Having only previously seen him in the Fifty Shades series, it was great to see him in something where he can showcase his true talents. Dornan plays Paul Conroy, a former British soldier who has shifted to a career in war zone photography. Paul ends up joining Marie on her reports and ends up serving as an interesting foil to her character. Having been through serious wars in the past, Paul knows what it is like to suffer from PTSD and does what he can to help Marie through her issues both present and future. It takes a lot of skill to match an actress like Pike, but Dornan does as good of job as anyone in getting the most out of their scenes together. While Marie is obviously the main point of the film, Paul provides a nice neutralizing element in his scenes and this would not have been possible without the work of Dornan. At points I was stunned with how good he was, because this charisma was nowhere to be found in the Fifty Shades movies. Maybe he was chasing the paychecks first, but now it looks like he is going after critical acclaim after getting his money and this is a promising start to a young career. I hope he continues this trend and pursues projects that are more challenging to him, but time will tell how he decides to handle his career moving forward.
Overall, these two performances are what take the interesting and inspiring story and elevate it to a nearly elite movie. While this story technically take place in the past, it is just as important as ever to watch a movie like this so we can see what people in war-torn countries are dealing with. If you think Marie’s situations were dire, think of those who continue to suffer in nations like Yemen, South Sudan, and Myanmar. If anything, I hope this film causes a call to action to those who view it and that hopefully something positive comes away from showing us the dramatized albeit real suffering of these people.
Overall Score: 9/10