Rosamund Pike Gives a Force-of-Nature Performance in A Private War: Pike's Tenacity, Swagger and Depth Are Astonishing

By Gilbey, Ryan | New Statesman (1996), February 15, 2019 | Go to article overview

Rosamund Pike Gives a Force-of-Nature Performance in A Private War: Pike's Tenacity, Swagger and Depth Are Astonishing


Gilbey, Ryan, New Statesman (1996)


Two weeks after a US court found the government of the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad liable for the death of the Sunday Timeswar correspondent Marie Colvin, and seven years since she was killed in the city of Homs alongside the French photographer Remi Ochlik, comes a fictionalised but creditable survey of the last decade or so of her life. A Private War is bookended by a shot in which the camera pulls out of a bombed building in Homs to survey a landscape where identical smoking wreckages extend as far as the eye can see. The film's title implies that the conflicts for Colvin--played by Rosamund Pike in a force-of-nature performance--were not merely external.

She tells a colleague that she hates being in war zones yet feels compelled to see them for herself, and some of the movie's choicest moments tap into that friction. Shortly after losing the sight in her left eye during the civil war in Sri Lanka, Colvin attends the British Press Awards, where she is to be named Foreign Reporter of the Year. The eyepatch-wearing journalist is positioned slap-bang next to a giant promotional photograph of her former intact self, creating a dissonance between the two.

When the eyepatch is first proposed, Colvin protests that she has no intention of dressing as a pirate. The irony is that she couldn't seem more like one if she were wearing a parrot on her shoulder and singing "Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum"--or, in her case, vodka. (It's the only tipple that silences the noise in her head.) Whether she's staggering around drunkenly at a party, filing copy from a hospital bed or crossing the Iraqi border by passing off her gym membership as medical credentials, she is as tough as they come. The film hints at the vulnerability poking through that exterior.

Arash Amel's screenplay favours bald explanation wherever possible. A Tamil leader is keen to sing Colvin's praises ("You have a good reputation for speaking honestly") but he will need to get in line behind her editor, Sean Ryan (Tom Hollander), who is on hand with a verbal pick-me-up for any occasion ("You have the God-given talent to make people stop and care"). …

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