Rosamund Pike gives a powerful performance as war correspondent Marie Colvin in A Private War, playing the Salmar Classic on March 16. (File photo)

A Private War a gritty, moving tribute to correspondent Marie Colvin

Cinemaphile by Joanne Sargent

Please note that the Film Society movie on March 16 has changed from the original film scheduled.

Coming up instead is A Private War, a fact-based drama about Marie Colvin, one of the most celebrated war correspondents of our time, a woman fearlessly driven to make the world see the horrors of war.

An American by birth, she wrote for the UK’s Sunday Times from 1985 until her death, while on assignment in Syria, in 2012.

Perhaps it’s difficult to imagine what would compel a woman reporter to embed herself in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria. Why she repeatedly risked her life to perform an act of faith, reporting from these conflicts in the belief or hope that her readers would care about the suffering she recounted. Suffering was always the story for Marie Colvin. She witnessed horrible atrocities and reported from hazardous locations in buildings literally crumbling from nearby shellings, and from a Sri Lankan hospital after losing an eye reporting on the Tamil Tigers. The film blurs war zones together and you realize that’s the point—locations change, but armed conflict is always the same in the innocents it claims and the suffering it causes.

Colvin’s deployments are punctuated by episodes of life back in London, affairs and parties and journalism galas that feel surreal when juxtaposed with the brutality of her workplace. But here we see the darker aspects of her life as, not surprisingly, her work has taken a terrible toll on both her physical and mental health. Unable to block out the horrors she has seen, she fights a private war with PTSD, she drinks and smokes excessively and sacrifices loving relationships as her personal life starts to unravel.

Read more: Through Black Spruce, film adaptation of Giller Prize-winning novel, to play the Classic

Read more: Redford charms in The Old Man and the Gun

A Private War reminds us of the humanism that drives so many reporters, but also the exhaustion, the psychological burden and the extreme danger they put themselves in to bring us the truth. We see the immense value in Marie Colvin’s work and the tremendous price she paid for it. The movie doesn’t glorify the heroics of being a journalist, but instead emphasizes the painful and often fatal stakes.

Rosamund Pike, nominated for a Golden Globe for her powerhouse portrayal of Marie Colvin, transforms her voice, her body language and her physicality to delve into the role. She embodies the chain-smoking, tough-as-nails, determined reporter. She delivers a moving tribute to the fiery courage and heroism of the deceased award-winning war correspondent.

Showing at 5 p.m. on March 16 at the Salmar Classic, A Private War is sometimes hard to watch as it does contain disturbing violent images. There is crude language throughout, brief sexuality and nudity. There are actual headlines of her stories in the credits at the end.


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