A Private War

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

A Private War

Few things are more interesting than exploring the personality traits of a thoroughly unusual person. A Private War does just that in a compelling way as it gives us a portrait of Marie Colvin, a London Times reporter whose motivations are a fascinating puzzle. Her true story is handed to us by actor Rosamund Pike under the direction of Matthew Heineman in a riveting film.

It is easy to say that this is the story of a dedicated reporter who is emotionally caught in the multiple tragedies of the Middle Eastern wars that have been killing thousands of people during recent decades. What is harder is deciphering the degree of Marie Colvin’s determination to deliver to the world, at great personal risk, the reality of the erasure of those thousands of people.

As a columnist for the Times, Colvin knows that to convey tragedy she must go to the places where it is unfolding. “You have to find the truth of it. You have to find the human cost of the act.” Colvin loses an eye in a brutal battle in Sri Lanka and goes back for more as we watch her compulsive smoking and drinking begin to swallow her. Though her friend warns that she has post-traumatic stress disorder, that never reduces her emotional need to educate the public about the tragedy of the violence.

Her editor at the Times (Tom Hollander in a quiet, terrific performance), tells her “you have a God given talent to make people feel,” as he tries to keep her safe – to no avail. Her response to those who try to keep her home, “I feel we have failed if we don’t tell the horrors.”

By the time the film shifts to Syria in 2012, we understand on a deep level that this is a woman who refuses to live in safety while others are suffering. She watches a whole generation dying of sickness, cold, and bullets without medical doctors or medicines to help them as they die. When Colvin turns from writing to broadcasting about the violence, she becomes a visible target. She dies in the field and since then, 500,000 innocent people have died.

This determined columnist gave the world the truth, but the world, upset though we may be, stops following because we believe there is nothing we can do. The power of this movie is the truth conveyed by one columnist dedicated to forcing the world to see what the Syrian regime was doing to an entire generation of innocent people.

Marie Colvin rivets us to the truth of what unfolds in this world of death while most of us pass it by as we read the newspapers each day. Credit Rosamund Pike with a performance that she developed while studying TV recordings of Colvin’s voice and way of moving. Pike studied and understood the depth of Marie Colvin and hands her complexity to us in a riveting way.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : A Private War
Word Count : 497
Running Time : 1:46
Rating : R
Date : October 28, 2018



Movie Review by Joan Ellis –


The fun of Colette is irreverence. The independence of women was not a value as the 20 th century began. They lived within the parameters assigned to them – being wives, mothers, and support systems for their men in a world of total artifice for women. What outlets existed for women with creative ideas begging to get out of their heads? George Sand solved it by using an alias. Others dealt by publishing under their husbands’ names.

In the 1890s, Colette (Keira Knightly) is married to Willie (Dominic West), a con man by instinct who is delighted with the collaboration he and his wife invent. She writes; he publishes her lighthearted work under his name. “The hand that holds the pen writes history” she says to her husband. She sees the truth and she is honest but in the long run, she will not be content to be a victim of a tough historical time for women. She becomes Colette, renowned French writer who gradually embraces the off-beat social scene of Paris.

The books she writes are stories that fit perfectly in the existing world of total artifice. Light to the core, they are picked up by a world living in that prevailing culture, and Willie’s stream of stories – all by his wife – become celebrated. Why does he feel no guilt at taking credit for all her work? He’s perfect for the role – an uninhibited player in a culture that celebrates artifice. Writer/director Wash Westmoreland paints the whole thing with an appropriately light hand and never succumbs to the temptation to make everything come out right.

Of Colette’s husband Willie, her mother tells her daughter “he’s a drunken, broken man,” and suggests she handle her writing and her life as she wants it to be. That includes an unappealing gay affair with an American and then a dandy one with Missy (Denise Gough) that is everlasting. Of her now nationally celebrated fictional character Claudine, the evolved Colette says “I’ve outgrown her.” She turns with great success to the music hall and the theater – moving now on her own talent without having to channel it through Willie.

Keira Knightly does a fabulous job of creating Colette. From the lightweight writer whose Claudine has captured the French public, she evolves into resentment at her husband for taking the credit. The smart gal who has tired of creating Claudine switches to music hall and theater work while living with the woman she loves.

That’s quite a series of life and mood changes and Knightly makes the whole trip credible and full of fun. She conveys Colette’s free spirit with abandon. Yes, she goes through a whole array of emotions but she isn’t trying to teach the audience any lessons and neither is writer/director Westmoreland. When we realize there will be no moralizing, we are free to float with the zany script that delivers Keira Knightly’s terrific bundle of talents. This is a fun one.

Film Reviewer: Joan Ellis
Film Title : Colette
Word Count : 495
Running Time : 1:51
Rating : R
Date : October 14, 2018