Monday, 18 February 2019

War reporter’s spirit continues to inspire

War reporter’s spirit continues to inspire

FEARLESS, rebellious and ferociously dedicated to her work, the late Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin is among the most celebrated war correspondents of recent times.

She was killed — many say assassinated — in 2012 at the age of just 56, while reporting on the Syrian civil war that still rages today.

Yet Colvin’s spirit lives on — and now a film has been made that aims to honour both her memory and her remarkable life story.

Based on the acclaimed Vanity Fair article “Marie Colvin’s Private War” by Marie Brenner, the action takes us from the rubble and bombed towns to the glittering events where Colvin was garlanded with press awards, to the hospital where she was treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. To arm herself for the daily private war she fought in the mirror, Colvin swigged down vodka martinis, dragged on cigarettes and used sex to numb her nightmares.

In what is being hailed as a career-best (and Golden Globe-nominated) turn, Rosamund Pike nails Colvin’s complexities with an unflinching, bare-all performance, capturing her remarkable strength and tenacity, as well as her mischievous humour and ragged vulnerabilities.

Colvin’s thwarted maternal instincts are touched on, as are her trust issues with the various men in her life. “I always go for the psychos!” she eye-rolls to her lover (Stanley Tucci).

Certainly Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi enjoyed flirting with her, according to one intriguing scene set just before his downfall.

Her most defining male relationship, however, was her platonic one with Paul Conroy (Jamie Dornan), her loyal Liverpudlian photographer who was also seriously injured in Homs when Colvin was killed.

His best-selling account of that time, Under The Wire, was recently turned into a documentary.

That Conroy acted as a consultant on A Private War gives it a further seal of accuracy, and the film possesses the visceral authenticity that you might expect, given it’s the narrative feature debut by Oscar- and BAFTA-nominated director Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land, City of Ghosts), who ensured that many of the victims of war portrayed in the film were actual survivors of the events.

As the end credits sombrely inform us: “Over 500,000 Syrian civilians have been killed since Marie’s death.”

With last year’s killing of a dissident Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, making global headlines, the events of A Private War could not be more relevant or more urgent viewing today.

A Private War is on general release from Friday (February 15).

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