DVD review: “A Private War” (2018)

“A Private War” (2018)

Drama

Running time: 110 minutes

Written by: Arash Amelbased on “Marie Colvin’s Private War”by Marie Brenner

Directed by: Matthew Heineman

Featuring: Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Tom Hollander and Stanley Tucci

Newspaper Editor: “Why is it important, do you think, to see this images? Why is it important for you to be there? Right now you may be one of the only Western journalists in Homs. Our team has just left.”

Marie Colvin: “For an audience for which any conflict is very far away, this is the reality. There are 28,000 civilians, men, women and children, a city of the cold and hungry, starving, defenseless. There are no telephones. The electricity has been cut off. Families are sharing what they have with relatives and neighbors. I have sat with literally hundreds of women with infant children who are trapped in these cold, brutal conditions, unable to feed their children anything other than sugar and water for weeks on end. That little boy was one of the two children who died today. It’s what happens every day. The Syrian regime is claiming that they’re not hitting civilians, that they’re just going after terrorist gangs. But every civilian house has been hit. The top floor of the building I’m in has been totally destroyed. There are no military targets here. It is a complete and utter lie.”

Released this month on DVD is a film, “A Private War” (2018), that makes comments on two elements of modern life that has become central to many people lives especially in our modern-day life, those being politics and news organisations as well as their place especially in comparison to the past. It also puts at its centre not only a charismatic character but a powerful one that is also a woman who seemingly lived her life her own way even when she put herself and others directly in harm’s way that in the short term cost her a body part and in the long term cost her the very life she lived which ultimately meant she felt like many, that she was invulnerable which of course she was not. While “A Private War” is definitive in its own understanding of what it is about as well as the message it wants to send to audiences it does lose something in its narrative in the fact that there is not real overarching plot, it is all about one person which means her motivations can be lost especially since there is very little real explanation given to the reasoning behind Colvin’s decisions except for the very end of the movie but in my opinion that is far too late to offer some kind saving grace that gives hope to the predicament society in general finds itself in right now.

What should be a gripping look into the final years of a woman that faced dangers as well as her own fears is actually quite a dry almost clinical piece of work that does shine especially in the main performance given by Rosamund Pike who expertly portrays someone who is a three dimensional character that battles with someone or something in almost every scene, at times as a viewer you feel exhausted as you witness what seems inevitable but at the same time wishing the outcome was not set in stone as of course it is. I found myself wondering what this movie would have looked like in the hands of a writer and director who had more experience as well as a vision of a story that would grab an audience offering a narrative as well as real social commentary which would have offered an equally as well as compelling plot to back up the great central performance.  

“A Private War”  is based around Marie Colvin an American journalist for The Sunday Times, visiting the most dangerous countries and documenting their civil wars.  In 2001, while trekking the Tamil Tigers, Colvin and her crew are ambushed by the Sri Lankan Army. Despite her attempt to surrender, an RPG fires in her direction, wounding her to the point that she loses her left eye. Afterwards, Colvin is forced to wear an eyepatch.

Ultimately the weakness in “A Private War” come from the very real lack of experience that both the director, Matthew Heineman , and the screenwriter, Arash Amel have in not only putting together a narrative that compliments a plot but also keeping audiences engaged through what is quite a complex character. In terms of the director, this is the first narrative movie he has been at the helm of, his other movies were documentaries which require an entirely separate skillset. The screenwriter is more troubling as he has only worked on movies that have not worked at all, it seems he has not learnt any lessons here. What needed to happen was to give the plot of more original narrative flow so that like the best true stories there were some revelations to be made, this one plods along in a way both the writer and director should be embarrassed by. 

“A Private War”  is based around a very real person, Marie Colvin an American journalist for The Sunday Times, visiting the most dangerous countries and documenting their civil wars.  In 2001, while trekking the Tamil Tigers, Colvin and her crew are ambushed by the Sri Lankan Army. Despite her attempt to surrender, an RPG fires in her direction, wounding her to the point that she loses her left eye. Afterwards, Colvin is forced to wear an eyepatch.

There is no doubt that this movie is built around the central performance given by Rosamund Pike who is at her best, giving what is obviously a person as well as passionate performance of someone who was driven, myopic and ultimately these traits were fatal. Pike inhabits the role as you would expect her to but too much is put on her shoulders in not only carrying the movie but covering much of what is wrong with it. The supporting cast made up of Jamie Dornan, Tom Hollander and Stanley Tucci are all experienced actors who know their jobs inside and out with respect to supporting the lead, giving her space as well as knowing what they have to do from scene to scene. It is unfortunate then that the level of acting as well as the cast that has been assembled to tell a gripping story is not matched by the crew, there needed to be as much experience behind the camera as there is in front. 

There is no doubt at all that this is a story that needed to be told, it is easy to see why so many people wanted to be involved, the main character of Marie Colvin was not only a selfless person when it came to her career, wanting to tell the truth no matter the personal cost, that cost was indeed high not only with her fate but in terms of the relationships she was unable to maintain. This is also a movie that aims to be about more than just what one woman did, it is also about truth as well as what it means to be able to gain trust as well as telling a truth that needs to be told. This is something that she was passionate about but a passion she felt like she needed to share which of course she did.

I may not recommend this as a purchase but it is worth a rental or even to watch over a streaming service if you are able to find it.

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