Rosamund Pike Jamie Dornan Tom Hollander Stanley Tucci
I don’t know if other people will have the same experience in watching this film as I did, but to me it was like listening to television news stories from Sri Lanka, Iraq, Aphganistan, Libya, and Syria one after the other, highlighting mangled, bloodied bodies and cries of misery. Our heroine, Marie Colvin—a journalist and real person—(played eloquently by Rosamund Pike) seems to be drawn to war zones, even as she hates them. She says at one point, “In covering war, can we really make a difference?” In her own mind, that is what she is about, trying to get the world to care. And she is successful, at least in her editor’s mind, when he compliments her: “You have the God-given talent to make people stop and care.” I wish the story had moved me to a greater extent, but it didn’t, which I will address below.
We first get a bit of background on Marie, at home in London with her husband David, a professor/novelist, when she is early in her career. He makes a comment about her being away from home so much, and clearly doesn’t appreciate the passion she has for her work. When she gets seriously injured in Sri Lanka and begins showing signs of PTSD, he tries to get her to change directions. But after a stint in a mental hospital, in a couple of years she is headed to Iraq.
That is where she will meet the photographer Paul Conroy (Dornan), who is awed by her and eventually becomes a devoted partner in covering war stories. He sticks with her throughout, being a kind of protector (which she allows it) and pal. They end up in Libya during the Arab Spring, and meet with Gaddafi—whom she has met before—and she asks him hard questions, which he responds to with heart and humor.
By this time, Marie is showing signs of serious alcohol problems and issues with Sean, her editor (Hollander). She has met someone who—if anyone could—inspire her to rest on her laurels, but at this point, Sean tries to reel her in to continue. She comes back with the argument that what she does protects him (and her readers). “I see it so you don’t have to”, she says; whereupon Sean comes back with, “But if you lose your convictions, what hope do the rest of us have?” That kind of guilt trip will always get to Marie, and she travels on to Syria and Assad’s bombing of civilians there.
I was taken with director Matthew Heineman’s previous films, which were documentaries: Cartel Land, City of Ghosts. Here, he attempts to dramatize Marie Colvin’s life (based on Marie Brenner’s article in “Vanity Fair” magazine, with a screenplay by Arash Amel) as a gutsy, committed journalist whose life-long wish was to appeal to populations of the world to help those in desperate need. But, surprisingly, the film doesn’t leave the viewer with a clear understanding of Marie herself. Why did she keep chasing war stories to the point that it was almost—if not in fact—suicidal? Did her editor, Sean Ryan (Hollander), try to keep her out of harm’s way—until the sensational story became more important? Nor does the film pull us in emotionally so that we’re cheering at the end. No, it’s missing the heart and soul that his documentaries captured so well.
That being said, Pike’s performance is flawless and moving throughout. She clearly understood and appreciated the character of Marie Colvin, in ways that I could not in seeing this film.
This is about recent wars and intended as an anti-war film.