By Nick Boyd
“A Private War,” based on the career of celebrated foreign war correspondent Marie Colvin, is a harrowing look at a fearless reporter, played by Rosamund Pike (from “Gone Girl” fame), in an emotionally devastating performance. Colvin suffered from an addiction to the adrenaline rush of war. She worked for The Sunday Times in London and primarily focused on conflicts in the Middle East. Her editor felt that she was their best asset in the field. In addition to reporting on dangerous conflicts, Colvin also interviewed top leaders in international countries.
Despite being able to do what she loved and winning various accolades, being witness to war and conflicts began to take its toll on Colvin, who developed PTSD and became an alcoholic. It became so debilitating that it required a stay at a mental facility. In 2001, she even loses sight in her left eye due to a blast from a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) while reporting in Sri Lanka. From that point on, she is forced to wear an eye patch to cover her damaged and disfigured eye.
Pike is able to expertly capture the emotional highs and lows of a very driven individual, who would stop at nothing to report what she saw. This is a truly vulnerable, raw performance in which Pike sheds her good looks to completely inhabit the role, bringing much conviction. She is nearly matched by Jamie Dornan, who is best known to audiences for starring in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” films. Dornan plays Paul Conroy, a freelance photojournalist, who accompanies Colvin on her missions. Conroy is the voice of reason with Colvin and is also able to get her to open up to him. Over time they develop a friendship with each other built on trust. Dornan gives a performance that is powerful and sympathetic.
Late in the film, Colvin meets a wealthy bachelor at a party named Tony Shaw, who is played with caringness and understanding by Stanley Tucci. He soon becomes her love interest and expresses to her that she should give up her war reporting assignments so that they could continually be together without her travels getting in the way. The indication is that they would have a happy life together. However, the visceral appeal of being in conflict zones offers such an enticement to Colvin that she ultimately puts that first over her newfound love interest, which will ultimately lead to her demise.
This excellent film, while quite intense, is worth enduring for its powerful account of the cost of war (up-front and personal) and journalism’s importance.