Rosamund Pike, so deliciously wicked in “Gone Girl,” disappears into the role of war journalist Marie Colvin in the haunting drama “A Private War."
Rosamund Pike, so deliciously wicked in “Gone Girl,” disappears into the role of war journalist Marie Colvin in the haunting drama “A Private War”; she’s got a thick, smoke-ringed voice and a forthright way of marching into danger. “You’ll never get where you’re going if you acknowledge fear,” she says, and she means it, even after she loses sight in one eye, early in the film, due to a grenade in Sri Lanka. Marie wears an eyepatch for the rest of the film; you see her, when she thinks nobody’s looking, perpetually adjusting it, never quite accepting it.
Director Matthew Heineman, whose previous work has been in documentary film (he was Oscar-nominated for “Cartel Land” in 2016), here makes a fact-based feature film both celebrating and illuminating the disappearing, dangerous art of the war correspondent. Colvin, an American journalist who wrote for the Sunday Times of London, spent time in war-torn Afghanistan, Beirut, Syria, Iran, Chechnya, Kosovo and other locations, always bringing her well-thumbed copy of Martha Gellhorn’s “The Face of War.”
In “A Private War,” which unfolds over a decade or so beginning in 2001, we see this forceful woman beginning to unravel. Haunted by the image of a young dead girl, she drinks too much, fearful of both growing old and dying young. “I see it,” she unevenly hisses to her editor, of wartime horrors, “so you don’t have to.” Asked if she might have PTSD, she’s scornful — “bleeding soldiers get that.” Pike shows us both the strength and the quietly growing fear, as Marie becomes a jittery shadow, her voice getting thicker, more desperate. But out she goes, into bombed-out apartments and dark tunnels, her faithful photographer Paul Conroy (Jamie Dornan) by her side. This is who she is; this is what she must do.
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★★★½ “A Private War,” with Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Tom Hollander, Stanley Tucci. Directed by Matthew Heineman, from a screenplay by Arash Amel, based on the article “Marie Colvin’s Private War” by Marie Brenner. 110 minutes. Rated R for disturbing violent images, language throughout, and brief sexuality/nudity. Opens Nov. 9 at multiple theaters.