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

 

The Old Man & The Gun

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

The Old Man & The Gun

The Old Man & The Gun is quiet, slow, and questionable. The main reason to go is to salute Robert Redford by seeing his final film. Now, however, Mr. Redford has announced in a recent interview that he had such fun making this one that he may well change his mind about retiring. Whether you decide to go should depend on how you feel about this movie actor who has given us great pleasure over the decades. Without him, this movie wouldn’t last long.

We are presented with Forrest Tucker (yes, Robert Redford), a man possessed by a dream. He has found his life’s pleasure, excitement, and challenge in robbing banks. Now and then he serves a jail term when caught but that doesn’t dim the fun of planning his heists.

He has created his holdups artistically. With the good looks of a fit older man dressed in a business suit, he enters a bank, quietly reveals the unloaded pistol in his jacket and asks politely for the money in the teller’s drawer. What Redford does so well is to convey not just the calm of the thief but his quiet, deep pleasure in the theft. This is one man who loves his work. When he leaves the bank with a box full of cash, he wears a very gentle smile. He did it again.

The movie’s many subtleties may well be pleasure for the elders among us, but will young people love it? No one will ever hear Robert Redford raise his voice. When he sees Jewel (a very fine Sissy Spacek) trying to fix her broken car by the roadside, he pulls over to create with her a lovely first meeting that you may have to be older to appreciate. The acceptance by each of the other’s eccentricities makes young courtship look foolish. The few lovely scenes where they share their affection are beautifully done.

We have met a man whose pleasure comes from escaping and outwitting police and prisons. He’s done just that many times, and as we watch him when he’s quiet, we know he’s planning his next heist. This is the perfect part for Robert Redford. The bank robber hasn’t a false or fake note in him; he just loves what he does. But it’s repetitious and slow. If you can handle that, both Redford and Spacek win us over with warm performances. Those of us old enough to remember their old days will probably like it more than those who are very young.

Seeing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with my whole family years ago is an enduring memory for me. All ages of us loved it. In The Old Man & The Gun we love Redford for not trying make himself look younger than he is. If you’re feeling sentimental, you may appreciate the gentle old bank robber who loves his work. If not, you might find the movie interminably slow.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : The Old Man & The Gun
Word Count : 497
Running Time : 1:33
Rating : PG-13
Date : 21 October 2018