Combustible Celluloid
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With: Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Stanley Tucci, Tom Hollander, Faye Marsay, Greg Wise, Corey Johnson, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Alexandra Moen, Fady Elsayed, Amanda Drew, Raad Rawi, Hilton McRae, Jérémie Laheurte
Written by: Arash Amel, based on an article by Marie Brenner
Directed by: Matthew Heineman
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent images, language throughout, and brief sexuality/nudity
Running Time: 106
Date: 11/09/2018

A Private War (2018)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Public Eyepatch

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In A Private War, Rosamund Pike gives a committed, detailed performance as war correspondent Marie Colvin, who died while covering the siege of Homs in Syria in 2012. It's a fine piece of work, and a great character, an intrepid rule-breaker who was so committed to bringing the truth to light that she neglected her own safety. (Her trademark eyepatch came after losing her sight in one eye in an explosion in Sri Lanka.) Very few other actors have much of a chance in their scenes with Pike, but Tom Hollander fares the best as her Sunday Times editor, Sean Ryan, whose relationship with her is interestingly complex. Stanley Tucci is a natural scene-stealer, but his character as a brief boyfriend of Colvin's is relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things. The second-biggest role belongs to Jamie Dornan as photographer Paul Conroy, but he's almost constantly lost in Colvin's shadow. In the film, Colvin continually stresses finding the personal within her stories, and the movie itself fails to do just that. It stays firmly on the surface, rigid with importance. It chugs along in a constant rage about the continuing misery in Syria, and about the general indifference and ignorance of the rest of the world. It's the feature directing debut of Matthew Heineman, who made the excellent documentaries Cartel Land and City of Ghosts, and while he combines realism and fiction in interesting ways, the movie is just a gray, brutal assault, a stern lecture. It could rally a few to action, but the more likely effect is that viewers will feel punished.

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