A Private War
4.5/5 MUST must see SEE
dir Matthew Heineman
scr Arash Amel
prd Basil Iwanyk, Charlize Theron, Matthew Heineman, Matthew George, Marissa McMahon
with Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Stanley Tucci, Tom Hollander, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Faye Marsay, Greg Wise, Amanda Drew, Corey Johnson, Alexandra Moen, Jeremie Laheurte, Fady Elsayed
release UK Oct.18 lff, US 2.Nov.18
18/UK 1h46
A Private War
Facing fears: Pike and Dornan

dornan tucci hollander
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
A Private War Filmmaker Matthew Heineman (City of Ghosts) brings his documentarian's eye to this biopic about noted war reporter Marie Colvin. Played with earthy intensity by Rosamund Pike, Colvin was a powerhouse who shined light on people caught in the crossfire. This film is sharply well-assembled to throw the audience into both her life and her perspective.

An American journalist working for Britain's Sunday Times, Marie (Pike) lost an eye in 2001 while covering the civil war in Sri Lanka. Her eyepatch became part of her image and, accompanied by photojournalist Paul Conroy (Dornan), she intrepidly continued to dive straight into the most unthinkable situations in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Her editor (Hollander) in London worries about her refusal to play it safe, but her stories change the way wars are reported, focussing on the human cost rather than the hardware.

Heineman and cinematographer Robert Richardson shoot this with almost unnervingly realistic urgency. On the battleground, we are right there with Colvin, and the terror is relentless. When she's in London haunted by the violence, the film turns introspective, lightly touching on relationships with her ex-husband (Wise) and a sparky businessman (Tucci), plus her friendship with Rita (Amuka-Bird). What emerges is a beautifully rounded portrait of Colvin that never tries to make her a saint.

Pike dives in deeply, bringing Colvin to life both physically and soulfully. It's a powerful performance that also fills the movie with Colvin's compunction to explore the personal cost of conflict. Her fearlessness is riveting, as are her personal failings, including various addictions, none of which are presented simplistically. The actors around her are solid as well. We hardly notice Dornan's accent drift back and forth across the Irish Sea .

Most intriguing is the way Heineman finds a way to balance Colvin's journalistic cynicism with her innate curiosity and her big-hearted desire to offer dignity to victims of political violence. These things often collide in ways that are hugely moving, as Colvin helps the world at large feel the pain and desperation of civilians in the war zone. The movie is packed with telling scenes that explore the moral and ethical dilemmas journalists face, including the tension between the telling the stories audiences want to hear and the need to find something more important. Colvin was a rare reporter who could balance this perfectly. And this film is a superb tribute to her.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, nudity 20.Oct.18 lff

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