A Private War: LFF Film Review

I became aware of how incredible Rosamund Pike was when she starred in Gone Girl. I really wanted her to win the Oscar for it but she didn’t and I would really like her to be in the race again with A Private War.

She stars as Sunday Times war correspondent Marie Colvin in this biographical drama which charts the final 11 years of Colvin’s life, focussing on her work in war zones and her struggles with PSTD and alcoholism when she’s back home in London.

Pike is on top form and her performance is one of the best in her career so far. She doesn’t look much like Colvin but she sounded uncannily like her and impressively captured her mental state – Colvin is haunted and traumatised by what she’s seen and she drinks and smokes like a chimney to help clear her mind and calm her down. Not only that but she had to act with only one eye as Colvin wears an eye patch. The toll of it all really begins to show in Colvin’s appearance too – her hair becomes grey, dull and wiry and her teeth become a grimy colour.

I was also surprised by Jamie Dornan as her photographer Paul Conroy. I never gave him much credit due to his wooden acting in the Fifty Shades movies, but he gives a very emotional, moving performance here. It’s the best I’ve seen of him too. Tom Hollander also deserves a mention as he was excellent as her boss – torn between caring for Colvin on a personal level to wanting her to get the newspaper a story.

The film does not shy away from the violence of war and how it affects people afterwards. The film really puts you in the war-based scenes. It is unflinching, hard-hitting, bloody and I couldn’t help but be moved by it.

The film has some flaws – I wasn’t always keen on how they visualised Colvin’s PTSD attacks and nightmares and I would really like to know how she has internet and a working laptop in a conflict zone without power – but the performances are so good that you can forgive all that. It really is a job well done – Colvin’s goal was to show the world the impact war has on the innocent civilians caught up in it and this film does exactly that.

Seen as part of the 2018 BFI London Film Festival. No release information known yet

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