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.