Rosamund Pike plays Marie Colvin, a war correspondant for The Times. The film begins 11 years before her death and details her work in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Syria. In between conflicts we see the impact the horrors she has experienced is having on her private life and the cost she is paying to bring the world the truth.
The film’s strongest asset is Colvin’s words and Pike’s performance. Extracts from her writing belay the profound eloquence she had in writing about travesties. The passion and fury behind her words are convincingly performed by Rosamund Pike. She captures the vibrant physicality of the ever-defiant journalist whilst also offering a manic distress on her private moments.
Her actual death is handled delicately but honestly. A countdown throughout ensures that her tragic demise is ever present in the narrative. It’s devastating to see her bold voice silenced in a wave if smoke and debris. The film handles all tragedy with severity but not eploitatively so. The horrors that Colvin experiences are provocative and moving.
The film is not without fault. Often the dialogue is hammy and insincere. Interview footage at the end of the film further demonstrates that the screen writer didn’t quite get her voice correct. There are some cliches and clunky moments of exposition. “You want psychobabble, well here it is” she says before handily revealing all of her inner demons.
A Private War is a heartfelt dedication to an extraordinary journalist and an urgent cry for a bold and compassionate media. It may occasionally lose track of its most profound strengths amidst familiar tropes but is a provocative film nevertheless.