A Private War Review - Dramatic, Poignant, Heartfelt, Raw

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A Private War, from Aviron Pictures, presents the true story of Marie Colvin, a celebrated war correspondent, who spent a decade reporting every major conflict never allowing fear to stop her from securing the truth.

Directed by Matthew Heineman, A Private War stars Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Tom Hollander, Stanley Tucci, Faye Marsay, Corey Johnson, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Fady Elsayed, Alexander Moen, Greg Wise and Raad Rawi as Gaddafi.

A Private War opens with a long shot of Homs, Syria, 2011, after nearly a year since the Arab Spring uprising was met by President Bashar al Assad’s war machine, we see the remnants of a city, hollowed, bombed out buildings, twisted steel, chunks of concrete and utter ruins with a voice over of a women describing why she reports in these extremely dangerous places.


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The next scene moves to the door of an apartment with Marie, played by Rosamund Pike, and Professor David Irens, played by Greg Wise, locked in a intense, spontaneous and as it appears one night stand quickie. It isn’t until morning we learn Marie and David have been married, are now divorced and on occasion are still passionate about each other.

We are introduced to Sean Ryan, played by Tom Hollander, the Foreign Editor for the London Times introducing Marie as Foreign Correspondent of the year. We, also, see what the world doesn’t, an emotionally unstable, risk taking, rebel, living on the edge, with an addictive personality. She is plagued by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder dreams, any sensory action plunges her deeply into those memories of grotesque violence inflicted on the innocent war victim.

We found out early, also she is technologically inept. Sitting at her desk in London Times, she, who is fearless, who can drop a list of foreign leaders she was sat with and interviewed, can not seem to get past a control-alt-delete command.

Today she is off to Sri Lanka to interview a tribal leader, over a decade before Homs, Syria. It is an active war zone and she files an another shocking story on the faces of war, those who are denied medical supplies as caravans of aid is stolen leaving the most vulnerable to die and no one knows.

Her interpreter and rebel forces tell her an ambush is imminent and they take the only way out. Pinned down by enemy fire she attempts to use Foreign Correspondent as a cease fire tactic which is immediately met with more gun fire and shelling. She suffers a shrapnel injury and is hurt badly.

After surviving her injury, she becomes accustomed to her new appearance. She is incredibly talented, fearless, uncompromising with a near deadly drive. She went places others wouldn't. Getting down and dirty in the trenches of war is an understatement.  She had a heart for those she covered and hurt for those in war.

She was an award winning journalist,who wanted a different life. The peaceful life of a white picket fence may have held her along with a daily martini and the soccer mom mini-van, it just wasn’t in the cards and it was painful and she suppressed the PTSD, the loss of dreams, of a traditional marriage, children, soccer mom life with alcohol.

Picking up a new photographer, Paul Conroy, played by Jamie Dornan, we see throughout the war conflicts she is taking greater risks, traveling against her Editor’s specific orders, and he is also concerned as the foreign desks is sending in double coverage.

In between assignments she attends a February party, it is celebrating a dry January. And as we see Tony Shaw, played by Stanley Tucci, raise his glass, he explains as the holidays are a heavy drinking time and this traditional celebration toasts the end of one month dry.

It is at this point A Private War shifts into the Syrian War conflicts and life with Tony Shaw.

The film is a true story of an exceptional reporter haunted by the death and darkness of war so that we, and those who can, will do something to alleviate the suffering of the innocent.

The film tells two stories as it portrays the conflicts around the world and the story of the woman, her hopes, dreams, and what she settled with which wasn’t a poor trade off, it just wasn’t the peaceful end she had hoped would end the life of torture.


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The special effects are also done quite well. A Private War has substantial war scenes with automatic weapons, IED’s, and the bombing raids, the explosions are impressive and convincing.

The cast is exceptional, and should be recognized during awards season. Rosamund Pike gives a gritty portrayal of the traumatized war journo junkie. The story is heartfelt, and the portrayals authentic from those who understand her and those who do not. It is an emotional journey especially as it is recent history. This is not the jungles of Vietnam, it is Syria where war continues, Iran where mass graves are still being unearthed, these stories made the front pages and we read them.

A Private War depicts the professional struggles and the dangers for the contemporary journalist not only the war correspondent and also those who have the courage to speak out against regimes of the world. It is affecting, poignant and profound. 

A Private War opens Friday, November 2, 2018. See it.

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