Director: Matthew Heineman
I can’t imagine this film will be seen by many people unaware of Marie Colvin’s story – (spoiler alert) sometimes described as a “rock star” reporter she was a prominent writer for the Sunday Times until her murder by the Assad regime in 2012.
The New Yorker recently described Colvin as someone with “a chronic willingness to throw herself into danger”; all the more remarkable given the PTSD she suffered as a consequence. It’s a gritty at times visceral film depicting war with an immediacy that startles possibly because Colvin’s only weapon were her words. Her interest was in the people, not who lost and who won.
Although very much a film about war, it sidesteps glamourising it. There are many harrowing scenes – starving children, mass graves, – but Director Matthew Heineman keeps Colvin’s character, and the way she deals with devastation it wrecks on the civilians the focal point, rather than the gunfire and explosions.
Scenes in war zones dominate the film, but it’s balanced by seeing Colvin away from the battle front – a technophobe who has contempt for her paper’s management and but accepts the accolades and awards, drinking to block out the things she’s seen. Rosmund Pike is utterly convincing, not just sounding and looking just like her but bringing alive Colvin’s fierce and uncompromising attitude, but able to show the often drunk and damaged woman underneath.
The negatives? One mild one in that there’s a limited amount of space given over to the other characters and her relationship with them. Jamie Dorman is very understated (and dignified) as photographer Paul Conroy – in real life, already notorious for his warzone work when they first met. Stanley Tucci’s considerable talents are barely troubled playing a fictional love interest. It provides a rather cringeworthy nude scene that instead of illustrating Colvin’s femininity slaps you full frontally around the face with it. Tom Hollander fares better as the man with the impossible task of trying to manage her – it would have been good to have seen more of the dynamic between them
The film needs to be seen in context. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that 34 journalists were murdered in 2018 and 251 jailed; Colvin was one of 37 deliberately killed in 2012. As Jamal Khashoggi’s name becomes a memory films like this provide an important reminder of the value of a free press and contempt that those who decry it should be held in.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
Welcome to Sarajevo