2019 Film Reviews - 15: A Private War [dir. Matthew Heineman; 2018]
One of the lines that’s often used to describe the horrors of war is that it cuts lives short. Sadly, the words have almost become a cliche. But they are thrown into agonising relief by the tone and structure of A Private War, Matthew Heineman's part-documentary-style, part-war-movie-like take on journalist Marie Colvin’s seemingly inexorable journey towards death in Homs. From the moment the movie begins, everything - from the captions to the greyed-out colours, the disconcerting chronology and the Euro-cinema social realism - points to the hope-deprived dust and rubble of Syria. And of course, as audiences we await the closure that this ending - despite its cruelty - will surely bring. But quite rightly, there is no resolution. Just a sense that many years’ worth of potential - as suggested by Rosamund Pike’s hypnotic, measured, cerebral performance in the lead role - have been quashed. And that countless other lives have been and can be snuffed out with equal coldness. Quite an achievement for a piece of work that could easily have fallen into the trap of biopic blandness.