A Private War




An actress at the top of her game is united with one of the world’s leading documentary filmmakers to create a frightening portrait of war and war reportage.


Private War, A

A rock in a hard place: Rosamund Pike and Jamie Dornan


“Nobody in their right mind would do what you do,” Sean Ryan tells Marie Colvin. He is the foreign editor for The Sunday Times, she is his star player, a fearless correspondent who has reported from the hellholes of Chechnya, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Iraq and Afghanistan. As the film opens, Marie Colvin’s voice ruminates on the nature of her work and of her fear, something, she says, that came after the fact. She is in Homs, Syria, a place where houses, streets and whole districts have been reduced to rubble, decorated by the entrails of its inhabitants. Her job is to share the fear, to give her subjects a voice that can be heard around the world. It is frightening to think that Colvin was killed at the hand of government troops, shortly after she had broadcast the news that President Bashar al-Assad was lying about bombing rebel outposts, but in fact the homes of his own citizens. Since Colvin’s own death in 2012, a further 500,000 Syrian civilians have been killed.


A Private War - based on Marie Brenner’s feature ‘Marie Colvin’s Private War’ for Vanity Fair - marks the ‘fictional’ debut of Matthew Heineman, who directed the visceral, harrowing Cartel Land and City of Ghosts, two of the best documentaries in the last decade. Here, he applies his nose for the frontline drama with an accomplished verve, while permitting his actors the chance to shine. As Colvin, Rosamund Pike is as selfless in her portrayal of a one-eyed alcoholic woman in her fifties as was Nicole Kidman as the washed-up alcoholic cop in Destroyer, but Pike inhabits her role more fully. She never seems to be acting and is every inch the damaged, searching and highly intelligent reporter that Colvin obviously was. As her photographer Paul Conroy, Jamie Dornan is suitably restrained and entirely convincing, while Tom Hollander is just as credible as Sean Ryan.


As a work of dramatized reportage, A Private War stands shoulder to shoulder with those other classics that detailed the world of driven war correspondents, namely The Killing Fields (1984), Salvador (1986) and Welcome to Sarajevo (1997). And for all the film’s frightening immediacy and realism, it is Rosamund Pike’s astonishing performance that audiences will remember.




Cast: Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Tom Hollander, Stanley Tucci, Corey Johnson, Faye Marsay, Greg Wise, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Raad Rawi, Amanda Drew, Hilton McRae.


Dir Matthew Heineman, Pro Matthew George, Matthew Heineman, Basil Iwanyk, Marissa McMahon and Charlize Theron, Screenplay Arash Amel, from Marie Colvin’s Private War by Marie Brenner, Ph Robert Richardson, Pro Des Sophie Becher, Ed Nick Fenton, Music H. Scott Salinas, Costumes Michael O’Connor.


Acacia Filmed Entertainment/Savvy Media Holdings/Thunder Road Pictures/Denver and Delilah Productions-Altitude

110 mins. UK/USA. 2018. Rel: 15 February 2019. Cert. 15.