These days journalists aren’t just reporting the stories, often they are the story. Just ask Jim Acosta. A new film, “A Private War,” places the journalist front-and-centre while detailing a story from our recent past.
Rosamund Pike plays Marie Colvin, long serving war correspondent for The Sunday Times. For three decades she put herself in harm’s way, covering conflicts the world over. “I care enough to go to these places,” she says, “and write about it in a way that makes people want to care about it as much as I do.” While on assignment in Sri Lanka she loses an eye in a bomb blast. Later, when accused of being “stupid“ for going into that war zone she says “I think stupid is writing about the dinner party you went to last night.“
Years of witnessing bloodshed have taken a toll. “You’ve seen more war than most soldiers,” says her photographer Paul Conroy (Jamie Dornan). Plagued by nightmares, she would drink a quart of vodka to calm herself. Her PTSD didn’t keep her from the job, in fact it may have been the engine that kept her going.
In 2012 she, along with Conroy, embarked on her most dangerous assignment, covering the siege of Homs in Syria. Her reporting revealed the Syrian government was targeting civilians in an effort to quell the Arab Spring uprising. “I see it,” she says of the horrors of war, “so you don’t have to.”
As the title suggests “A Private War” is about the push and pull inside Colvin. The battle between her life in England with boyfriend Tony Shaw (Stanley Tucci) and the adrenaline rush provided by her work in the field. “Maybe I would have liked a normal life,” she says, “or maybe I don’t know how. Or maybe this is where I feel most comfortable.”
Pike brings passion and fire to the role, although while on duty in Sri Lanka she looks like she’s part of a “Vogue” fashion spread, not a reporter in the field. Emotionally raw, it’s a portrait of a single-minded person who always put her work first. Unfortunately we don’t learn much more than that. It’s a jittery performance that effectively portrays Covin’s state of mind but by the film’s second half it feels one note.
“A Private War” comes at an interesting time for journalism. With the profession under fire from Fake-Newsers it’s important to discover the stories of the people who report on “the rough draft of history.”