By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
I’ve been fascinated with the work of war correspondents perhaps ever since seeing Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger’s impossibly immediate documentary Restrepo.
A Private War tells the story of one of Junger and Hetherington’s contemporaries, the legendary Marie Colvin (Rosamund Pike), cross-cutting across her life and different conflict zones as she finds herself inextricably drawn to telling the stories of all of the people suffering within them.
Director Matthew Heineman very much knows what he’s doing with material like this in his first non-documentary film. With Cartel Land and City of Ghosts he brought a stunning element of war correspondent chutzpah himself to the world of documentary filmmaking, in the former going as far as essentially embedding his crew with a drug cartel in order to make the film.
Hey, do you mind it if I film you making meth?
While he proved in those films that he didn’t need a world-class Hollywood cinematographer to make his images pop, but here he definitely gets one in Robert Richardson, and the results are visually stunning. On the acting front, Jamie Dornan is perhaps surprisingly excellent as well as a man who’s seen several types of shit even more vividly than Marie, perhaps.
Make no mistake, though, this is Rosamund Pike’s film, and may well be her defining film role- at once completely deglamorized and undeniably heroic. She’s driven by forces she may not even understand fully, both to the front lines and to speaking truth to any power behind them. It takes a terrible toll on her, but she continues because as long a there’s pain being swept under the rung, she’ll be there to lift it as long as she’s able.
A Private War digs into the allure and fucked up psychology of people drawn to this work and makes a case for its essential role in putting powers in check.
Heineman’s main stylistic flourishes to differentiate this film from his quite cinematic documentary style, a fractured timeline and copious nightmare sequences, likely are adding too much art to the proceedings. Instead of bringing new angles to the material, they actually sap the power of Heineman’s “you are there” authenticity that the film otherwise offers in spades.
A Private War is a fitting tribute to a legend of journalism in Marie Colvin, a woman who always stood up to tyranny and lies.
A Private War (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: anytime a timestamp tells us how long until Homs (it’s what you think it is)
Take a Drink: whenever Marie fidgets with her eyepatch
Take a Drink: for every nightmare Marie has
Take a Drink: for drink she takes
Do a Shot: for aerial shots of Syria