09th May2019

‘A Private War’ DVD Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Stanley Tucci, Tom Hollander, Greg Wise, Alexandra Moen, Faye Marsay | Written by Arash Amel | Directed by Matthew Heineman


A Private War is directed by Matthew Heineman and stars Rosamund Pike as famed wartime correspondent journalist Marie Colvin, capturing her life from 1986 until her death in Homs Syria at the hands of the regime she was fighting against to highlight the atrocities they were undertaking. Heineman’s film is a deeply disturbing account of the atrocities against civilians in Syria and the human spirit that continues to fight it on the battlefield, and in the media, with an outstanding central performance from Rosamund Pike.

Pike here is off the charts superb. The total complete utter embodiment of her real-life character Colvin is realised in such a detailed and pragmatic manner, you’re left in a state of awe witnessing such a dedicated performance. It never conveys itself as a parody or mimics in the likes of Rami Malek’s Freddie Mercury, or Ben Kingsley’s performance as Adolph Eichmann in Bohemian Rhapsody and Operation Finale, respectively. Pike here evokes a grand display comparable to the method acting of Christian Bale’s Dick Cheney, of which begs the question why one and not the other was nominated for an Academy Award, but more on that a little later. Pike provides these small delicate nuances of character that are simplistic albeit devilishly powerful and therefore totally engaging on screen, with an impactful edge. The vigour she showcases through her eyes in the depths of Colvin’s PTSD is emotionally devastating, as well as the pain the rumbles beneath the surface, both psychological and at times the physical manifestation of wounds that will never heal.

The supporting cast isn’t too shabby either, although it is unequivocally Pike’s picture. Jamie Dorman is slowly but surely building his reputation back up from his participation in the Fifty Shades franchise, with little snippet supporting roles in stellar written productions such as My Dinner with Herve and now this. His performance as photographer Paul Conroy, while the majority of the time is placed in the background, manages to have a sizeable screen presence due to the fact Dorman injects characteristics, namely comedic and a sense of reason into his arc that defuses the situations he and Colvin are placed in. Thematically speaking, it injects a layer of aforementioned diffuser that adds an engaging climate and flavour to proceedings with said characters, who are throwing themselves into this confrontational danger, while also making the sting and anger of the war-torn setting all the more compelling and frightful.

The cinematography and edit by Robert Richardson and Nick Fenton respectively, are also astonishingly personal and objective to the terrors that transpiring before our very eyes. The image on the screen – when in the midst of chaos – is fully enforced with the usage of a handheld camera. Revealing and exhibiting a constant rush and tense atmospheric ambience that is explosive with unnerving anguish temperament. Sadly, the screenplay by writer Arash Amel is a little hit and miss. In some areas, it’s rich and subversive, specifically the character of Colvin. However, it’s a little underwhelming concerning the war in Syria. Specifically, the events that Colvin, herself, uncovered during the events that unfold. The film sort of skews the personal and internal battles of Colvin with her fights against PTSD and alcoholism. The film never wants to explore such themes, aside from small snippets that simply mention these hard-hitting subjects, fleeing from them before any kind of depth can be presented and therefore explored.

A Private War is released on DVD on June 10th courtesy of Altitude


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