Thursday, November 8, 2018

A PRIVATE WAR: documentarian Matthew Heineman's first narrative feature opens

Those who saw Matthew Heineman's earlier documentaries, Cartel Land or City of Ghosts, well understand how effectively, near shockingly, he is able to place you, as well as the people whose stories he is telling, in the midst of horribly fraught situations in which the choices go from bad to beyond appalling.

Mr. Heineman, shown at left, has now directed his first narrative film -- A PRIVATE WAR -- an unusual bio-pic which brings us up close (and very personal) to a famous war correspondent, Marie Colvin, and the reporting she did from the middle of some of the most horrible wars of the end of this past century and those that occurred during the new one.

Using a documentary style, the filmmaker's achievement -- in addition to giving that wonderful actress Rosamund Pike (below) the best role she's had since Gone Girl (which she tears into so completely that, were there any justice to those generally frightful Academy Awards, she have another nomination sewn up) -- lies in placing us so firmly and relentlessly in the middle of the violence, carnage, desperation and despair Colvin is covering, that we feel we're as close to it all as movies can manage.

What's really interesting here is that Heineman, together with his cinematographer (Robert Richardson) and editor (Nick Fenton) instead of offering up lots of visual razzmatazz, goes more for precision and specific detail, as well for logistics and a sharp sense of space and place.

The director also concentrates as much on the results of the violence as on the violence itself -- showing us grieving women, parents who've lost their children, and those still in the midst of trying to save and/or somehow protect their offspring under the most difficult of circumstances.

All this works to demonstrate journalist Colvin's real mission: to show us the rotten results of war rather than glamorizing its excitement and violence, and not coincidentally, pointing the finger at heartless shitheel dictators like Syria's Assad, who would, has and will continue to sacrifice his entire nation's population in his bid to retain power.

The movie begins in the Syrian city of Homs, which would prove to be Ms Colvin's final assignment, then goes back to the late 1990s in Sri Lanka (three photos above), making its way via conflict after conflict until it again returns to Homs.

By this time, we've ascertained quite well who this unusual woman is, what she does, and why she must do it. (And, yes, you may decide that, buried within her along with all else, is something of a death wish.)  Ms Pike brings her to life in all her strength, sadness and oddball beauty (even with that eye patch she must use after Sri Lanka). We even get a good dose of this woman's alcohol addiction, too.

Heineman and his writer Arash Amel (whose screenplay is based on a magazine article by Marie Brenner) weave in Colvin's history, family background, sexual needs and lots more (some humor, too), doing this in short, swift scenes that help make her character as full-bodied as we could want, given the movie's 106-minute time frame.

In the supporting cast are some excellent actors, including Jamie Dornan (above, as the photographer she meets early on and continues to work with), Stanley Tucci (below, left, as her companion used as much for his intelligence as for his sexual expertise) and especially the wonderful Tom Hollander (two photos up) as her newspaper editor: kindly, smart, a little bit craven but mostly frightened for his intrepid reporter.

Colvin's story is a vital and important one, especially now, as so much that so many of us hold dear seems to be spinning out of control. I hope that audiences will rise to the occasion and go see this movie so that Academy members can't/won't simply pass it by.

From Aviron Pictures, A Private War opened last week on the coasts and expands this week to additional cities and venues, including here in South Florida  Wherever you reside, to find the theaters nearest you, simply click here, and then click on GET TICKETS in the task bar atop the screen.

No comments: