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  • Telling the story of the last decade or so of Sunday Times' foreign affairs correspondent Marie Colvin, and based on Marie Brenner's 2012 Vanity Fair article, "Marie Colvin's Private War", the film is nowhere near the quality of Chris Martin's exceptional Under the Wire (2018), a documentary about Colvin's last assignment, and how her photographer, Paul Conroy, got out of Syria after her death. Wisely, screenwriter Arash Amel and director Matthew Heineman choose not to tell the same story as Martin, focusing more on Colvin's life in London and her previous assignments, and concluding with her death. This makes sense, as the story of how Conroy got out is a movie unto itself, complete with plot twists, heroism, sacrifice, a villain who turns out to be a hero, and against-the-odds survival, and it's a story that's definitively told in Martin's documentary.

    With this in mind, A Private War has its own merits. Avoiding hagiography, Heineman doesn't shy away from some of the darker aspects of Colvin's character (her refusal to accept she was suffering from PTSD, her alcoholism, her acerbity, her appalling hygiene), with the film more interested in asking why she did what she did rather than simply showing what she did. Part-biopic, part-journalistic drama, part-war movie, if A Private War has a salient theme, it's that of The Truth and the price that some people are willing to pay to ensure that that Truth is known; in Colvin's case, she paid with her mental well-being, and, ultimately, her life. It's by no means perfect, with some awful dialogue, scenes so on-the-nose you might need rhinoplasty after watching them, a tendency to over-simplify complex socio-political elements as binary oppositions, and an uneven central performance. However, it's a respectfully told story, the material is treated in a suitably serious manner, and historical authenticity is always paramount. Which is more than I can say for Green Book (2018).

    Opening in the Baba Amr neighbourhood of Homs, Syria during the 2012 Homs Offensive, the film then cuts to 2001. Colvin (Rosamund Pike) is embedded with a Tamil Tiger regiment in Sri Lanka, when she is hit by shrapnel from an RPG, losing the sight in her left eye, and forcing her to wear an eyepatch for the rest of her life. The film then gives us a summary of the next 11 years - her meeting with freelance photographer Paul Conroy (Jamie Dornan) in Iraq; the use of civilian digging equipment to unearth an unmarked mass grave of 600 Kuwaiti POWs in Fallujah; meeting and beginning a relationship with Tony Shaw (a criminally underused Stanley Tucci); an interview with Muammar Gaddafi (an unrecognisable Raad Rawi); and finally, her assignment (given to her at her own insistence) in Syria.

    Although A Private War spends time showing us Colvin in Sri Lanka, Iraq, Libya, and Syria, it is just as interested in depicting the mental price she paid for her work. Examining how she processed the things she saw (or didn't process them, as the case may be), Heineman is more interested in the PTSD, the alcoholism, the bodily injury, and the loneliness. The film runs with the premise that Colvin was fundamentally correct when she argued that the real stories of war are not the socio-political causes of the conflict, or the military engagements, but the civilians caught in the crossfire ("it doesn't matter what type of plane just bombed a village. What is important is the human cost of the act"). Despite her honourable intentions, however, the film does suggest that Colvin was simply addicted to the adrenaline, doing what she did as much for her own personal needs as her commitment to a greater truth. Her insistence on going to the most dangerous places on Earth is depicted as a kind of vicious circle, with her inability to cope with the horrors she witnesses compelling her to seek out ever more harrowing subject matter. As she tells Conroy, "I hate being in a war zone. But I also feel compelled, compelled to see it for myself."

    The film also spends time on Colvin's private life, attempting to humanise her and round out the character, showing her tempestuous relationship with her ex-husband, David Irens (Greg Wise), her frequent clashes with her editor Paul Ryan (Tom Hollander), her descent into alcoholism, her refusal to accept help from her best friend Rita Williams (Nikki Amuka-Bird), her mentoring of young journalist Kate Richardson (Faye Marsay), her tender final relationship with Shaw. An especially telling scene in this regard concerns her eye injury. After asserting that she is unconcerned about losing her eye, we see her alone, looking at the injury in a mirror, with Pike conveying her sense of loss brilliantly. In another scene, she stands in front of a full-length mirror, completely naked, looking at herself with a curious sense of wonder. These moments reveal as much about her as the more expositionary dialogue-heavy scenes, and Pike's performance in these wordless scenes is really quite extraordinary, doing a great deal with very little.

    Elsewhere, however, the performance is a little uneven. Pike certainly captures Colvin's mannerisms, to a degree of authenticity comparable to Charlize Theron's depiction of Aileen Wuornos in Monster (2003). However, there are several scenes that don't ring emotionally true, with the performance coming across like a performance rather than something truly lived. In particular, a scene in which Colvin berates Ryan for his lack of trust in her has the feel of someone acting (and overacting at that), with little sense of psychological verisimilitude. Indeed, even though most of the other characters are one-note or no-note (Shaw, in particular, is poorly written), they often feel more natural than Colvin, more realistic, with the actor portraying them not quite as visible. Pike is certainly intense, and her impression of Colvin is uncanny, but it takes more than an intense impression to anchor a real-life character, and oftentimes, Pike's performance is more showboating than soulful.

    From an aesthetic point of view, it's worth pointing out that this is Heineman's narrative feature film debut, with his previous work confined to documentaries. Especially important in relation to A Private War are Cartel Land (2015), in which he was embedded with a vigilante group facing off against Mexican drug cartels, and City of Ghosts (2017), in which he profiled the Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently citizen journalist group who report on human rights abuses in Raqqa by ISIS. These two films show his familiarity with danger, journalistic risk, and Syria itself. What's interesting, however, is that whereas these films saw him bring cinematic sensibilities to documentary filmmaking, in A Private War, he does the opposite, bringing documentary techniques to a narrative film, especially in relation to the battle scenes, which have a gritty intensity. Along the same lines, the interview with Gaddafi reminded me of the meticulous pseudo-documentarian opening scenes of Michael Mann's The Insider (1999), where Mike Wallace (Christopher Plummer) conducts a similar interview with Sheikh Muhammed Hussein Fadlallah (Cliff Curtis) in Lebanon.

    Although the film adopts a realistic perspective for the most part, there are some terrific visuals. The opening shot, for example, is an aerial view of Homs, showing the devastation and the shattered buildings, as far as the eye can see, with not a sign of life anywhere. It's an immensely strong image with which to open the film, conveying so much without dialogue, in a similar manner to the extraordinary opening shot of José Padilha's masterful Ônibus 174 (2002). Legendary cinematographer Robert Richardson shoots the battle scenes in a cinéma vérité style, employing handheld cameras, loss of focus, shallow depth of field, and asymmetrical framing. These elements work together to create a strong sense of immediacy and authenticity. Additionally, Heineman allows the rubble, bodies, injured children, and wailing women bleed from one war zone into another, to such an extent that each conflict is interchangeable with all of the others. This isn't a criticism, however, it's a visual representation of one of the film's themes; every war is the same as every other war, especially in terms of the civilians wounded and killed during the fighting. In terms of representing Colvin's state of mind, Heineman employs disorientating scene transitions, flashbacks, dreams, and sudden temporal jumps. Editor Nick Fenton's work is also exemplary, increasing the pace of the editing depending on Colvin's mental state.

    Although A Private War does suffer from the occasional clunky bit of dialogue and a slightly uneven central performance, it's a strong film. Telling a different story than Under the Wire, it doesn't shy away from the darker and less savoury aspects of Colvin's life, presenting her in a non-hagiographic manner, as someone fundamentally damaged by what she does. Unafraid of examining her careerism and setting it beside a more humanitarian and philanthropic interpretation of her work, Heineman and Amel also address the price that all war correspondents must risk paying, irrespective of why they are there in the first place. The film is deeply respectful of both the craft and the courage of such people, not the least of whom was Colvin herself. At one point in the film, she claims, "I see it so you don't have to". Heineman, however, suggests that she saw it so that the rest of could see it too.
  • If I was to rate this movie based on acting alone, Pike takes it to at least an Oscar nominee. BUT (it is a really big but) I simply cannot ignore everything else. This is real war propaganda, I mean it is strange how the movie speaks about the horrors of war yet only one side contributes to the horror and makes you want to celebrate the same war that the 'good' side is waging. Being informed about the wars in most of the countries and even living in one that was invaded by Nato... i just simply cant help getting sick of watching movies like this.

    I mean she is with soldiers in that building that got hit and yet claims on live tv how there is no military target in that area?????? wtf.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I doubt that what I just watched was the best example of good journalism. Marie Colvin as a person and reporter was obsessed, disturbed, and maybe suicidal. I think she was too sensitive for that job.

    The Arab Spring turned to be an Arab Nightmare but it took 3 years to the mainstream journalists to start spelling it. The revolution in Syria ended as a proxy world war that even today we cannot be sure of its outcomes. The story was way much bigger than the simplistic version of an evil Assad. And she missed it.

    I think her death was in vain. RIP. The world is not insensitive as she thought. People cares. But things are a little more complicated than what she could understand.
  • If you watched this Prima Facie and did no background research into the "conflict" in Lybia, Syria... No mention whatsoever of the US and HRC's involvement in Gaddafi's assassination, "we came, we saw, he died" were her very words during one interview, and not with anything even remotely resembling sobriety. You also need to understand the "topple seven nations in five years" the US agreed to. Lybia, Syria, Iran, etc. Or how the US and NATO forces back ISIS, shelled Assad's people. Some 500,000+ killed by the US weapons, etc. Not anything I want to be associated with, but that was my tax dollars, and yours if you are a tax paying citizen of the US. Taking nothing away from Marie Colvin's work as a journalist, but let's be clear. Assuming the film is accurate, she received awards from her company alone; it's not like they were industry awards, recognition, etc. No, I think this was more propagandist than factual.
  • My review will comment only on the politics of this film.

    Like most Hollywood films, this film fails to establish any context and chooses to only portray one side of the war. They simply failed to establish a balanced view, war is complex and all sides commit atrocities. This film choses to highlight only western propaganda talking points. Nor does it take any effort to establish causality of the war.

    I find it hard to digest if no duality is fairly presented, there is no attempt to establish the covert efforts of foreign influence that escalated the conflict to its current predicament. The film expertly exploits human emotion to sell its propaganda.

    A simple case in point is to compare the state of the middle east before and after the American led interventions.
  • rays-9010610 November 2018
    When i left my country I decide to not remember any thing from that hell, But today i cried like i just lost every thing, it's an amazing movie
  • A very different role for Rosamund Pike then Gone Girl or any other film she has made recently. She takes the care in embodiment of Marie Colven, trying to give her truth life. This is not an easy movie to watch, harsh scenes of war-torn countries and showing real people that have actually been effected by real tragedies. While watching I definitely felt that Matthew Heineman was trying to give the realest depiction of this story. I often felt a little underwelmed with the pacing of this movie, it flips back and forth to the past and present a little too much for me and not focusing long enough on either for the full character development. Rosamund Pike did give a great performance and Marie Colvin's story is worth watching.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Produced by Charlize Theron, A Private War is an excellent biopic that manages to capture the actual character, spirit and strength of the person the film is about. Marie Colvin, an American reporter working for a British newspaper, hailed by many of her peers as the greatest war correspondent of her generation. She was killed in Syria fighting for people to find out the truth behind the war, the undeniable tragedy that breaks down on thousands of innocent civilians living around war zones.This is a powerful example of a biopic, it never misses its strong point that the journalists out there that die every day or try to survive is not for fake news, but for the news corrupt governments try to hide. And that is the strongest message the film delivers. Rosamund Pike, who portrays late Miss Colvin, steals every single scene she is in, in a most convincing way. Her performance is raw, rough and on point. Rarely do actors achieve this level of craftsmanship with duplicating the looks, voice and the spirit of the original person. This role should undoubtedly land Rosamund Pike her second Academy Award nomination, and hopefully win. In the hands of a well praised documentary filmmaker Matthew Heineman, A Private War achieves a high level of narrative storytelling that keeps viewers interest and fascinates with extraordinary performances and pitch perfect cinematography.
  • This is not an action film or one that glorifies war. I don't understand a lot of reviews, and with all do respect a lot of you missed the point. It is not a political film either. It is the story of a women who joined the frontlines of major wars and battles from the late 80s until her demise. It is a human story of Marie , and the PTSD she later struggled with by seeing the horrors as well as being blown up herself. It is a character driven film. It does a fine job at giving a voice to the voiceless. Showing not the fighting, but the human interactions of oppressed people during major war time. This was very good, and Rosemund Pike shines with the rest of the cast in telling this deeply moving story of a true renegade women who decided to go and see for herself and report back the true horrors of warfare and it's toll on the human beings involved. The collateral damage if you will. Very good watch , see for yourself. Don't listen to these reviewers who missed the point or possibly didn't even watch the film.
  • This film looks into the Wars in the Middle East in a biased way and doesn't seem to tell the full story. Did not enjoy this film at all.
  • Greetings again from the darkness. Marie Colvin was a (seemingly) fearless war correspondent obsessed with giving a voice to those forgotten during war. Were she alive today, she could not have hand-picked a better filmmaker than Matthew Heineman to tell her story. Director Heineman was Oscar nominated for CARTEL LAND (2014) and, combined with his CITY OF GHOSTS (2017), gives him two of the best ever documentaries that show what the front lines are like in both international wars and the equally dangerous wars being fought over drug territories. Heineman has carried his own camera directly into the center of those storms, while Ms. Colvin took her pen and pad. Simpatico.

    Based on Marie Brenner's Vanity Fair article "Marie Colvin's Private War" (screenplay by Arash Amel), the film benefits from the extraordinary and courageous work of Ms. Colvin, and also a terrific performance from Rosamund Pike (words I've not previously written). Ms. Pike captures the extremes of Ms. Colvin's life - the atrocities of war and the self-prescribed treatment of her PTSD through vodka, and does so in a manner that always seems believable. She lets us in to a world most of us can't imagine.

    As a war correspondent for Britain's Sunday Times (since 1986), Ms. Colvin told the stories we'd rather not know. In her words, "I saw it, so you don't have to." The film begins with a stunning overhead view of 2012 war-ravaged Homs Syria (destruction courtesy of Assad's soldiers) - a place that starts the film and later ends the story. We then flash back to 2001 London so we can witness Marie in society and struggling with a personal relationship. She then chooses, against her editor's (Tom Hollander) guidance to cover Sri Lanka. It's a decision that cost her an eye, while also providing her recognition as the eye-patch wearing female war reporter.

    In 2003, a tip takes her to a previously undiscovered mass grave site in Fallujah. This is her first work alongside photographer Paul Conroy (played by Jamie Dornan). Having "seen more war than most soldiers", Ms. Colvin's severe alcoholism can't kill the nightmares, visions, and PTSD. After time in a clinic, she returns to work. We see her in 2009 Afghanistan and then pulling no punches when interviewing Libya's Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. During these assignments, we learn much about Ms. Colvin's personality and approach. She is rarely without a cigarette, admits to wearing Le Perla lingerie (and why), carries Martha Gellhorn's "The Face of War" as her field manual, and wins two British Foreign Journalist of the Year awards - though seeing her at the banquets is quite surreal.

    Hollander's subtle performance as news editor Sean Ryan is also quite impressive. He fears for her safety (and even questions her sanity) but is in constant conflict with the need to sell newspapers - something Ms. Colvin's stories certainly did. Stanley Tucci has a role as Tony Shaw, her love interest, but despite her words, we never believe he and his sailboat are ever more than a distraction from her obsession with the front lines. The final sequence in 2012 Homs Syria is stunning, as is her final interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN.

    Ms. Pike has altered her voice to mimic the deeper tone of Marie Colvin - her efforts confirmed in the final interview played at the film's end. It's quite a career boost for Ms. Pike, who has previously been known for playing ice queens in films like GONE GIRL. She captures the traumatized Marie, but also the obsession of someone whose DNA constantly drove her back to the stories that needed to be told.

    Director Heineman's unique perspective combined with the cinematography of 3 time Oscar winner Robert Richardson (a favorite of Scorcese, Tarantino, and Oliver Stone) delivers a realism of war that we rarely see on screen. Mr. Richardson also shot SALVADOR (1986) and PLATOON (1986) and his work here surpasses both. The film gives us a glimpse at the psychological effects of such reporting, and a feel for the constant stress of being surrounded by tragedy and danger. This is fitting tribute to a courageous and very skilled woman, although I do wish the men weren't constantly helping her out of trucks and jeeps.
  • T_Ra14 March 2019
    Good acting and a lot of potential but too much one-sided propaganda many villains (leaders) in other countries not mentioned.
  • Gave this movie a try for a half-hour, this is basically a movie about a trust fund war reporter made by her trust fund friends as a tribute to her. I mean, i one scene, she goes out on a patrol with Sri Lankan troops and is almost right at the very front? Come on! Yeah right.

    It's always the most posh, finely educated types who are war reporters. You're telling me that with all these ex-military men and women out there, these are the only people qualified to do this work? No, they are most certainly not. These assignments are reserved for the most well-connected to further their careers and prestige.

    Like many of the wannabe tough trust funders, they feel like using the f-word makes them more credible. just insufferable.

    This just wasn't a good movie, not worth watching at all. Don't waste your time.
  • drjgardner18 November 2018
    The dangers facing war correspondents is an important topic and you would think would make for a compelling story, especially a real life story. But this film keeps you are arms-length, aware that you're watching a film but not really in the action. Fault the direction and the acting, and I suspect the editing as well. Makes me wish for the days of Ernie Pyle
  • peeedeee-942818 December 2018
    Warning: Spoilers
    I expected a high quality movie when reading all the praise about it, but instead it felt like I was watching a poorly made History channel film. The movie plays out in chronological order, pinpointing certain moments in Marie Colvin's career, but not quite making it's point why those moments were significant. So many scenes would be set up, only to jump to something else. Or there would be scenes that would linger too long, when you felt it probably should have been cut. The director definitely needed a better editor. As for the Marie Colvin character, you never really get to find out what makes her tick. You do get a sense that she's dealing with some trauma of being in war zones, but you don't get a sense of why she's doing it. And she doesn't come across as being a likeable character. In fact, when she dies, it felt like 'oh well', because we were basically shown that she was too stubborn for her own good, and that's what got her killed. And overall, this movie really doesn't have a message. Maybe it's 'war is hell', although those scenes didn't feel natural, everything felt a bit too forced. It's too bad the director chose to edit the film the way he did. The jarring jumps takes one out of the movie. Just when you think you're figuring things out, it jumps to something else. Really distracting, and I just wanted them to get to Homs, Syria (which we were constantly reminded of over and over again). My rating is just to counter the excessively positive ratings.
  • The FSA are literally ISIS. There's a reason why no non-Sunni in the country supported them.
  • As an American independent voter- this is liberal garbage celebrating a "powerful and brave" woman who drove herself into the ground to tell the story of how bad muslims have it, knowing damn well it's because they are in fact muslims. It's well acted and put together well, just the entire content is political AF. If you decide to watch for yourself, when you get bored and annoyed with the chain-smoking drunken old woman running around without a care for her own life or her own team's lives, just skip to the last five minutes.
  • All cinematic characteristics covered in "A Private War" were good except for the most important part, which is the credibility of the story. I can't claim that the stories covered by "Mary" in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan were false or phony, but I am 100 % sure that what she said about Syria was a distortion and biased and unethical. Especially that statement during her broadcasting with CNN, and telling lies about the nature of the conflict, picturing it as if the Syrian president was sending the army to kill children, which is typically the method was used to direct audience consciousness towards an emotional issue away from the intrinsic truth, that the terrorists used families as human shields. Note that western media insisted on using phrases like "Assad Army" to implant a false idea in the audience conscious that this is Assad's war against civilians using a merciless army under his command, while it was actually a horrible war against thugs and criminals and later against Al qaeda and ISIS. I personally lived in that city and I can assure that what "Mary" said was her biased point of view, affected by the place she was reporting from, and she didn't bother to move to the other side of the city to see how we were taken hostages by the opposition gangs who later in 2012 took our neighborhood, my home, kidnaped my closest friend, choked him with a metal wire with cold blood and claimed that the regime was responsible. Only a terrorist or a "Moslem Brotherhood member" or any other radical moslm will support and believe her story. May her soul rest in peace.
  • If you have one empathic bone in your body you can't help but feel for the people Marie Colvin wrote about and Marie herself, despite her self medication and arguably self destructive nature.

    Pike plays Marie as so driven by her need to tell these stories that she regularly throws her safety away and allows herself to be emotionally damaged as well.

    The movie builds to the extreme violence in Syria and one scene in particular that will haunt me due to the rampant and indiscriminate death rained down by government forces.

    While the supporting cast does a great job, Pike is amazing and should garner Oscar attention for it. This will be a difficult movie to watch but Marie's story is important because you should really know all her stories.
  • Acting is 10/10 this is for those who don't know what journalism stands for and how this is not so easy easy job. movie leaves an impact on viewers about how much misdirected perceptions we as general public have about wars & fight against terrorism.
  • That was unfortunately so overreacted and unnatural. It was also based on lying and in support of the USA that had a key role in this war. I could watch it till the end with such a frustration. Dont waste your time. I promise you lose absolutely nothing.
  • A War movie which is said from the POV of a journalist and focuses more on civilians than soldiers is exactly what we need in the time of ever growing militarism and wars. Rosamund Pike carries the film on her shoulders and delivers the best leading performance by an actress this year and probably the best in her career. You would think that its a documentary and not a feature film sometimes, that's how powerful her performance was and the fact that she isn't gonna win the Oscar for this role is a tragedy.

    The movie is engrossing right from its first act and the director tells the story of every war in our recent times by showing the most heinous war crimes committed by government forces and rebels. Despite losing her eye in the bloody Sri Lankan civil war, Mrs. Colvin never backs out and continues to work as a correspondent in the conflicts at Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Syria which is what the rest of the movie is about. Though I was a bit disappointed that they didn't highlight her work in Chechnya and the final days of the Sri Lankan civil war in which she exposed the massacre of over 40000 Tamil civilians committed by the Sri Lankan government.

    On a technical level this movie is outstanding, especially the sound mixing. Matthew Heineman focuses equally on the hellish war zones and on the rough part of her life where she was battling PTSD and alcoholism. Overall this is an outstanding tribute to journalism and tells the story of one of the best war correspondents of all time.
  • dr-soso-ak17 November 2018
    Warning: Spoilers
    Painful yet inspirational life Story! Reminds me with myself and my days in Syria! Marie Colvin had been carrying a great message during her life, and she died in the sake if this message! What a brave women! RIP Marie :(!
  • My wife and I watched this movie at home on DVD from our public library.

    Marie Colvin was a real 21st century war correspondent, an American journalist working for a British news agency. She seemingly had no fear, or if she did overcame it to seek out the hottest of the hot spots and when she could, interview dictators with very pointed questions.

    Rosamund (pronounced "Rozz-mund") Pike is totally terrific as Marie Colvin, pirate's eye patch and all after she lost her left eye during a raid. Unless we have been in a cave the past 20 or so years we know all the stories, all the big battles, so this movie gives us nothing new there. What it gives us is a glimpse at a driven war correspondent.

    The title is significant, "my private war" is a reference to what is going on inside Colvin, what drives her, what makes her put herself and her photographer in the middle of dangerous war zones? We don't quite get the answer clearly but that is what we should be focused on.

    Good movie, Pike is very believable. The very end of the movie has a clip of the real Marie Colvin.
  • This film actually tells the story from one side, american terror side. It is about selfish woman, who dont care about the true. Only to hide behind her story, not reality. The film is also missing the point
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