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A Private War

6.71 h 50 min2018NR
Celebrated war correspondent Marie Colvin and her renowned photographer embark on life-threatening assignments as they journey to the frontline of conflicts across the globe.
Matthew Heineman
Rosamund PikeJamie DornanStanley Tucci
English [CC]
Audio languages
EnglishEnglish [Audio Description]
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Supporting actors
Tom Hollander
Matthew HeinemanBasil IwanykMarissa McMahonMatthew GeorgeCharlize Theron
Aviron Pictures
Content advisory
Smokingalcohol usenudityfoul languagesexual contentviolence
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4.3 out of 5 stars

884 global ratings

  1. 63% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 19% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 9% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 4% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 4% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Jack E. LevicReviewed in the United States on February 11, 2019
3.0 out of 5 stars
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A PRIVATE WAR is based on a Vanity Fair magazine article. I had read the article and learned about the amazing life of war correspondent Marie Colvin. Rosamund Pike plays Colvin and I never miss a film starring Pike. Marie Colvin's story starring Marie Colvin had to be a win-win situation. Unfortunately, this very well-intentioned film misses the mark on so many levels.

Marie Colvin was both amazing and troubled. She was one of the best foreign war correspondents, if not the best. She took her job a step further by actually embedding herself with troops or insurgents rather than sitting off to the safer sidelines. She experienced wars firsthand and saw the brutality and senseless violence inflicted on innocent civilians. She lost an eye due to an injury in Sri Lanka but didn't stop.

A PRIVATE WAR tries to cross the fine line between Colvin as a courageous, risk-taking correspondent and her troubled personal life as she is haunted by her war experiences. The films starts 10 years before her fateful visit to Homs, Syria and the director tries to follow an uneven timeline punctured with bouts of alcoholism and treatments.
Colvin is admired by her coworkers and friends as well as their source of embarrassment. Colvin is brave beyond words yet can't hold her private life together.

So much of the film is spent delving into Colvin's emotional and mental descent into hell yet we never really understand her desire to take such unnecessary risks. On one hand, she dreams of having a baby and on the other hand she can't wait to report on the next war torn hotspot.

Colvin experiences war firsthand and we see the carnage and destruction in the film but then we are returned to her life in London. It seems like her war experiences followed with some brief flashbacks would better have served her story. Did Colvin have a death wish to take such potentially fatal risks? Here story is remarkable but one did not have to read the Vanity Fair article to know the outcome of her story.

While this was a dedicated effort to tell Colvin's story, she deserved so much more. We'll never know her true inner thoughts but her work will live on.
44 people found this helpful
Elizabeth BennetReviewed in the United States on February 10, 2019
2.0 out of 5 stars
Filmic War Porn
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For this movie to work, the main character, the war journalist Marie Colvin, has to be sympathetic, or at least interesting, but in this movie she is neither. When Colvin isn't in a war zone, she is a basket case, and when she is in a war zone, she is reckless. Without a compelling main character, the film puts its audience in the position of a voyeur of what I call filmic war porn. The viewer to privy to graphic scenes of war's devastation, but there's little attempt to make us care about its victims. Not recommended.
31 people found this helpful
RobRockReviewed in the United States on March 2, 2019
2.0 out of 5 stars
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Very disappointing. Not much of her in the field doing her job. She can’t hardly talk because of all the drinking and smoking. The film is ladened with drunken outbursts and emitting about the atrocities she’s seen. I thought the movie might be more about her work in the field and the atrocious experiences of civilians. Her demons didn’t need to be so overly dramatized. Of course, she denies she has PTSD when asked by a friend. Who knows how much is true since so much of it is private are private interactions. Furthermore, I’m not sure why this “expose” has the obligatory sex scenes and the naked female body.
19 people found this helpful
Nancy Alexander-CarreiraReviewed in the United States on February 25, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
A real, tough-as-nails hero.....
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She wanted to bring the relatable HUMAN story of the devastation and pain suffered by innocent civilians in war-torn countries. She couldn't turn away from it and hoped that her eyewitness accounts of it would make other people care, too. Too often we hear about military action to which a majority of us cannot relate. But who among us cannot relate to losing a husband, wife or child. One's home and all belongings. Powerful story and an incredibly brave woman and team.
16 people found this helpful
M. OlesonReviewed in the United States on November 20, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
4 1/2 stars. One of the best dramas of the year with a stunning performance by Rosamond Pike
Theater review. Possible spoilers. This biopic by Matthew Heinemann, who is primarily known as an award winning documentarian (“City of Ghosts,” The Third Man”), is one of the best dramas of the year. It features an Oscar-worthy performance by Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl”) as Marie Colvin, an American born journalist working for the British newspaper “The Sunday Times.” She became well-known as a fearless war correspondent who would go into places no one else would, include Homs, Syria in 2012. It would be her final assignment. Heinemann’s documentary work certainly comes into play, especially when Colvin would discover the atrocities of war and the innocent people who try to stay alive during the various conflicts.

Colvin was a bit of a conundrum. She enjoyed the London social life, including the parties, the booze and the side affairs that always seemed available. But she was always drawn back to covering the constant conflicts, mostly in the Middle East or North Africa. In part, the heart of the story is that Colvin and those closest to her finally admit that she has an addiction to being a witness to war. Yes, partially because she believes in her craft and that someone must cover the horror being foisted on the innocent, but she has a strong desire to see action. The movie begins in 2001 when Colvin was covering the Sri Lanka war. She and her party were hit by a rocket-propelled grenade which cost Colvin her left eye. For many years she wore a black eye-patch which became a symbol for her courage. She thought she looked like a pirate. I thought of one scene in particular when Colvin is attending an award ceremony in her honor. She's dressed in a shiny, slinky, gold dress with well-coifed hair and wearing the eye patch. It seemed like a metaphor to her yin and yang personality.

What makes the film so special beyond Pike’s performance but that of another actor, Jamie Dornan who was in all those “50 Shades” movies that were so bad. Here Dornan turns in a terrific performance as Paul Conroy who went on to become an acclaimed photo-journalist in his own right. His subtle supporting turn balances the gung ho Colvin. He clearly has a thing for her, but aside from a great friendship it never gets romantic, at least in this story.

As great as the actors and the film are, Heinemann and his cinematographer, Robert Richardson, somehow get deep in the sadness and the suffering of the civilian population who must endure the mass killings perpetuated by dictatorial governments. Frankly it’s hard to watch…as are many important movies like this. Colvin was a complex woman, devoted to her craft who became a depressed alcoholic when she wasn’t on the battlefield. The supporting cast is noteworthy. Tom Hollander plays Colvin’s editor, Sean Ryan, Stanley Tucci is Tony Shaw, a wealthy American and sometime sexual playmate of Colvin’s. Faye Marsay is Kate Richardson, another reporter for The Times and Nikki Amuka-Bird is Colvin’s best friend, Rita Williams. It is one of the best movies of the year. Highly recommended.
59 people found this helpful
Fitness CelebrityReviewed in the United States on June 27, 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
Pike's Peak?
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War correspondents are a special, very rare breed. There's no doubt they have a weird addiction to danger, but it's justified by the basic reporter's creed of being an eyewitness to history. They want to see that history, especially when it bites back at them while it's being born. Rosamund Pike's Marie Colvin might write it that way too.

Like Lara Logan of 60 Minutes, Marie Colvin embedded in some of the foulest sh**holes on the planet, telling stories of the people who suffer in those places -- not sketching romantic, Hemingway tales about swashbuckling soldiers. Marie Colvin's reporting meant a lot to those people, and obviously to the bastard Bashar Assad of Syria, whose military deliberately targeted her and other reporters with the shelling that took their lives. Colvin's family won a $302 million court case against the Syrian regime, though I doubt they will ever collect.

Rosamund Pike lives this story, this kinetic cuss of a woman from the poor side of Oyster Bay, Long Island who made it to Yale, and got the war bug in the mid-1980s. Pike's performance is tough, real, and devoted to the story, like the woman herself. She becomes sympathetic through her haunted, boozy time in London between trips, and her mess of a personal life is contrasted with her in the field knowing exactly what she wanted to do, see, and say. You care when the end comes.

I also like that there's no attempt by the film makers (including Charlize Theron) to stamp Colvin's story with some throwaway bits of feminist dogma. There are no condescending, sneering men, no snivelling sisters for her to pat on the back, none of that rubbish. As played by Pike, she seems like a woman who probably enjoyed being around men more than other women, but there's no suggestion of jealousy, and I'm glad for that. She was simply a chain-smoking, badass war correspondent, sentimental when not on deadline.
4 people found this helpful
OvidReviewed in the United States on April 11, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Excellent - for anyone who likes stories about war journalists
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If you are interested in war journalists and foreign wars, you are going to like this movie. If not, you could find it kind of slow. But as far as I'm concerned, this movie could have gone on for a year at its leisurely unfolding pace and I would still be transfixed.

It is about the real life war journalist Marie Colvin, who though American was primarily based in London. Marie is so fierce and so committed to war journalism, that a lost left eye in Sri Lanka barely slows her down for more than a day. Even with an eye patch she attracts new lovers and becomes seemingly even more her authentic self, moving more boldly into active war zones than ever. The last 20 minutes in Aleppo feel a bit drawn out as Assad hears western journalists are there and begins to target them directly with bombs. The movie lays on the sentimentalism a bit strong at this stage, but as Marie says several times to the audience in the movie, her entire life cause and raison d'etre is about trying to get people to care about these shattered cities and murdered millions in remote, third world locations. At the end of the movie, it still seems to be asking the viewer, "Do you care about problems in places that are not your own?"

One of my favorite films--I can turn it on anywhere at any time and never get bored.
Frederick A. M.Reviewed in the United States on May 17, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
One journalist's courage, conviction and her ability to delve into war's bitter cost
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The subject of this film is Marie Colvin, portrayed here by Rosamund Pike. As a war correspondent, Marie Colvin had many peers and colleagues -- all who revered her for her courage, conviction and her ability to get the stories nobody else would try for. She worked on the lead edge of the spear, beyond the front lines. According to the film, Marie Colvin led a troubled personal life as well. There appears to be the rare occasion in which she was at peace.

This is a moving tribute to a rare life and a powerful tale of one journalist's courage, conviction and her ability to tell stories needing to be told. I have never seen a more powerful performance by Rosamund Pike. Truly amazing. Three cheers for Ms. Pike. Brilliant!
4 people found this helpful
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