Tuesday, November 6, 2018

A Private War

Matthew Heineman’s A Private War is an example of how a movie can be both searing and truthful while remaining totally unbelievable. Even in the face of a barely fictionalized reality, it's hard to suspend disbelief.The portrait of the Marie Colvin (Rosamund Pike), the chain smoking hard drinking war correspondent who emanated from Oyster Bay and broke major stories like the murder of civilians at Homs for the London Times is doubtless true. Yet what to do with a character who emerges as a pure stereotype. The same problem, by the way, plagued Margarethe von Trotta’s biopic of Hannah Arendt where the philosopher never appeared without a cigarette hanging out of the side of her mouth. In A Private War this reaches epidemic proportions when the subject, with bombs falling all around  her and with shards of concrete raining down on her laptop, is still lighting up. By the way where does one get the constant supply of cigarettes in a war zone where there's no food or water? Did Colvin have a special armored van which transported cartons of these distructive little missiles wherever she intrepidly went. No matter how documentary the intent, no fiction film convey actual dialogue. 
And it doesn’t help that the exchanges in Arash Amel’s script whether on the subject of the momentous events occurring or Colvin’s own private war with PTSD or addiction are totally leaden and perfunctory. Nor is the clumsy narrative structure with its laborious and predictable countdown to the events culminating in Colvin's own death in Homs any help. It's always discomforting to poke holes in a hagiography (particularly one like his which is well-merited). But it needn't detract from Colvin's legacy to point out that A Private War fails to do justice to its subject.

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