’A Private War’ is the biopic of celebrated war correspondent Marie Corvin (played by ‘Gone Girl’ Rosamund Pike) as it details into the last eleven years before the powerful and significant broadcast that she made in 2012 in Syria, in the ravaged city of Homs.
With razor sharp focus, screenwriter Arash Amel (who adapted his screenplay from the article of Marie Brenner) and director Matthew Heineman manages to humanize and delve into the character of Marie Corvin and the significance of reportage in an era of information overload brought by the internet and barrage of horrific news from all over the world.
The film begins in 2011. Corvin, already a renowned journalist loses her eye in Sri Lanka and begins to don a distinctive eye-patch, which starts the narrative’s look into the life of the journalist. She wrestles with the trauma that comes with staring at the indignities of war head-on, sitting down and interviewing dictators and rebel leaders, and putting her own person in danger for the sake of being able to give voice to the voiceless.
It is in the economy of story that ‘A Private War’ truly succeeds in telling the story of this incredible woman and the lengths at which she sacrificed personal safety and relationships for getting the truth out there for people to see.
Without focusing on the details of who she was prior to these significant assignments in Sri Lanka, Iraq, Libya, and Syria, which makes up the bulk of the narrative, the film is able to really dig deep into the heart of this character — focusing on one thing that made her incredible. I’m sure there are many things that transpired in her life that made her into the person that she is and there’s more to her than just being a courageous war correspondent. But by focusing on this particular points of her life, the film manages to truly amplify the message that she sends out, a message about the horrors of these wars and the lives that we get to have that others do not.
Without emphasis on the life before, the film manages to make pointed attacks at the privilege of people not living in such conditions. In between these assignments, Marie Corvin tries to operate in an urban setting with friends and colleagues and she’s falling apart and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
It’s a magnificent and transformative performance from the girl who gave us the sweet and loving Jane in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and the frightening Amy from ‘Gone Girl.’ In the middle of conflict, she’s tough as nails and fearless and when she’s at home partying with her friends, she retreats into alcohol and barely keeping herself together. The effects of war, the deterioration of her being, is seen not just physically but also in her demeanor and ticks. Pike is gunning for an Oscar and while the year has been filled with many contenders, she’s definitely going to be in the running.
‘A Private War’ takes us straight into the conflict, amidst the terror and the gore and the sadness amongst those who have to live with it everyday and then carries it over into the soul of the journalist who attempts to bring it to the world so that they would care. And the most ironic thing about this is that we care. We care about her even as the film tries to show us the people living in these horrible conditions. We care about her as we hear her take down notes of the stories told to her through an interpreter.
Our privilege connects us immediately to the journalist who wants us to care, but the war in Syria is still ongoing. The world is still broken. And even through this movie, her message rings true, and she’s still trying to reach out to us to care but what are we going to do about it?
The film is a challenge to everyone who views it. It’s a bold and powerful statement, highlighted by excellent direction and a mesmerizing performance by Rosamund Pike. It is a significant piece in this day and age but whether we do our part now is the question that needs to be asked.