The career of the journalist Marie Colvin was fairly unique. She covered most of the major conflicts of the 1990s and 2000s up until her death in Homs, Syria, in 2012.
Her articles in the Sunday Times brought across some of the horrors of war, not just the conflicts between political factions and leaders but the stories of mass graves in Fallujah, and the near starvation of internally displaced Tamils. Until her death she may be remembered as one of the last journalists to interview Colonel Gadaffi before he was killed in the Libyan conflict of 2011.
The film, based on a Vanity Fair article, “Marie Colvin’s Private War”, runs chronologically through Colvin’s work. Despite the title it really goes into only sparse detail about what drove or motivated her.
Her suffering from PTSD, losing an eye in Sri Lanka, such things are all covered, but you get only a glimpse into what if anything was Colvin’s own “private war”. She self medicates with alcohol, and we see the awkward relationships she had with several men in her life.
The film implies that her work was the downfall of her relationships. Perhaps the men may also hold some blame? The film doesn’t go into that.
Rosamund Pike as Colvin and Jamie Dorman as her photographer Paul Conroy hold the film together, and their performances sometimes make up for clichéd material and derivative dialogue. Do all journalists constantly relate to each other how important it is that people are aware of the reality of any given situation?
Nonetheless the scenes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and finally Syria are very powerful. Her determination to stay in Homs, against all sensible advice, to document what was happening there, cannot be demonstrated more starkly than by the fact she also lost her life at the hands of the Assad regime. 30,000 others also died, but she was specifically targeted because of her reporting from the frontline.
Despite its shortcomings, A Private War is worth seeing. It is a reminder that without journalists like Colvin many of the greatest crimes of dictators, armies and governments would go unreported and unseen by the eyes of the world.