A Private War Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Pros: A look into the life of a real journalist obsessed with the truth; impressive transformation by Rosamund Pike Cons: The attempt to stylize the film as a documentary made it too straightforward and monotonous; Images that should have shocked the viewer have become commonplace thanks to TV. A Private War / “Private War”

Genre biographical drama, war drama
Directed by Matt Heineman
Starring: Rosamund Pike (Mary Colvin), Jamie Dornan (Paul Convoy), Tom Hollander (Sean Ryan), Stanley Tucci (Tony Shaw), Faye Marsay (Keith Richardson), etc.
Студии Acacia Filmed Entertainment, Thunder Road Pictures
Year of release 2018
Site IMDb

The film A Private War, released in the United States in November 2018, is only now appearing in limited release in Ukraine. And here I would like to once again say hello to the distributor representatives responsible for translating film titles. In this case, they left the official name, but translated it as bluntly as possible, which, given the active participation of private military companies in modern conflicts, causes completely unnecessary connotations. In this case, the correct translation would still be “Personal…” or “Personal War,” because the film is about Mary Colvin’s personal view of the war and her battle with herself.

The film’s script is based on Marie Brenner’s article “The Private War of Mary Colvin,” published in Vanity Fair magazine in 2012 and, frankly, it catches your eye. A Private War is a sequential, almost documentary-style biography of Mary Colvin’s career since the early 2000s. and her tragic business trip to Sri Lanka before the death of the journalist in the Syrian Homs in 2012. An almost formal biography with several emotional inserts designed to show how the unbending and reckless war correspondent suffered from what she saw in hot spots and drank large doses of alcohol.


An attempt to stylize the film as a documentary reportage, a faded, muted palette, lack of spectacular shots and very simple editing add realism to the picture, but make it drier and more detached.

Another problem of A Private War is created by modern television journalism. Unlike Mary Colvin, who tried to reach readers of The Sunday Times through words and images, television journalists prefer a simple but effective picture. So, we have already seen all the horrors that should have shocked the viewer in this film many times in color, dynamics and from several angles. The terrible has ceased to frighten and has become commonplace. We have already seen the same terrible footage from Homs hundreds of times in reports and documentaries about the Syrian war.


But what is really impressive in this film is the transformation of Rosamund Pike. One of the most beautiful actresses of our time, who began her career in films based on Jane Austen’s novels, turned into a rude, cynical, not very pretty, lost woman in A Private War, drinking a lot and lighting one cigarette after another. In some ways, the metamorphosis that occurred with Rosamund Pike is reminiscent of Nicole Kidman’s transformation in the recent Destroyer. The actress was deservedly nominated for the Golden Globe and Satellite Awards for this role, but, unfortunately, did not receive them.


If we talk about other popular actors who played in A Private War, then one gets the impression that they are here nothing more than to attract attention to the film. Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey, The Siege of Jadotville), Tom Hollander (Bohemian Rhapsody, Bird Box) and Stanley Tucci (Spotlight, The Lovely Bones) only complement Rosamund Pike’s excellent performance.


They say that many war correspondents are in some way adrenaline junkies, getting a thrill from danger and literally withering away in peacetime. Only in war do they feel needed and alive. Mary Colvin was not like that. Yes, she was also drawn to hot spots, but she was drawn by the desire to unearth the truth, to convey the story of ordinary people suffering from the horrors of war to readers, to force them and the governments of their countries to somehow intervene in what was happening. The materials that Mary Colvin wrote helped save lives: for example, she is credited with helping to save 1,500 people in East Timor. It was she who first informed the world that Assad’s government forces were shelling civilians in Homs. Actually, Mary Colvin paid for this information, which influenced public opinion in Western countries, with her own life. An impressive example of civic position and understanding of journalistic duty, something that Ukrainian journalists really lack.


An honest film about the work of a real journalist, which is worth watching if only for the excellent acting work of Rosamund Pike

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top