The interplay of energy and depression in “A Private War” is an interesting progression of sorts simply because it standardizes in a way the ideal of extreme situations. Marie Colvin, a real life journalist who was killed in Syria as she was covering the crisis there speaks to the personality of those who take on the most dangerous of jobs, not to fight but to try to understand the psychology and emotions of war…especially civil ones and why such battles are fought. The movie in its narrative leads to the progression and the realization of Marie at some point that despite wanting a family and a baby at certain junctures, those instincts were not as powerful as those leading her into war zones. And, as with most dopamine highs, the lows are reflected even more viciously. Rosamund Pike continues her portrayal of suffering yet extremely vital women who make certain choices to progress their lives further. She doesn’t seek understanding in terms of her character but does seek attention which is an interesting diametric. Of course human nature dictates a sort of deadening of the sense of regular life. Pike is never vain and shows her character in all of her realness while understanding how society changes in different modes of structure.
While most people, even her editor at the newspaper doesn’t quite understand her motivation, Jamie Dornan’s character Paul, a former soldier turned photographer does understand her travails. Dornan’s character is a thankless role per se and is quiet a lot of the time but is also an interesting choice for the actor who does take on more character based roles in comparison to his “Fifty Shades” work which undeniably follows him. The visual milieu of the story is also interesting. The director Matthew Heineman lets the story unfold in almost jump cut progression of Marie’s life as if her existence is almost *and realistically) schizophrenic. Cinematographer Robert Richardson, a genius in his own right, gives the movie an uncommon realism in its photography. While some visual effects are used, he uses Jordan in a very visceral way without betraying that it is not actually Syria or Iraq.
The eventual countdown towards Marie’s eventual loss in Syria seems inevitable but not empty. She was able to bring her perceptions to the masses even if sometimes she couldn’t fully interpret them on a personal level herself. Pike’s moments of breakdown with the character speak to this. When she is simply left alone in a shot in a hotel room with the camera resting on her does one get a full sense of the character she is portraying.
The extras on the disc are specific to the movie but don’t necessarily add any new insight. In “Becoming Marie Colvin”, Rosamund Pike’s perception of shrinking 2 cm because of the tense poise of Colvin does gives her movement credence as does Colvin’s real life photographer Paul Conroy speaking to Pike’s attention to detail as he watched her performing through a monitor. The “Women In The World Summit” Q&A makes sense but does not reveal any undeniable morsels. Finally, Annie Lennox speaking to the writing of the “Requiem” song for the end credits in the final featurette is brief but, in speaking to the opening verse, her explanation makes one realize exactly how she was capturing this woman’s journey.
“A Private War” is an intricate and perhaps overlooked element of the award’s season but speaks to Aviron Releasing approaching unique stories and mid-range pictures, which unfortunately, in the current moviemaking climate, is difficult to maintain on a theatrical level.
By Tim Wassberg