A Private War
Universal // R // $29.98 // February 5, 2019
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted April 1, 2019
Highly Recommended
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Graphical Version
A Private War Blu-ray Review

A Private War is a true-story drama based upon the article "Marie Colvin's Private War" which first appeared in Vanity Fair as written by Marie Brenner. Based upon real events, the story centers upon Marie Colvin (Rosamund Pike), a brilliant and determined journalist working for The Sunday Times who would traverse the world working on news stories covering civil wars and the perils which are faced by people in situations of war-torn strife.

Colvin finds herself working on a story with her collaborator Paul Conroy (Jamie Dornan) surrounding the Syrian civil war and she faces down one of her most dangerous missions to date. Working with her headstrong editor Sean Ryan (Tom Hollander) behind the scenes, Colvin faces a situation in which all odds are against her and yet she gives every ounce and breathe of herself to documenting this story in all of its detail and import.

Pike again proves why she is one of the best actresses in motion-pictures today with her fierce independence as an actress. She completely delves into the role with a furious dedication. The performance is unmissable and absolutely captivating.

The screenplay was written by Arash Amel (Grace of Monaco) and keeps the pace of the storytelling tight and enthralling. The production design utilized by Sophie Becher (Alfie, Big Nothing) is often sparse and true to the environmental surroundings. Costumes by Michael O'Connor (Jane Eyre, The Duchess) are eloquent and befitting to these characters and their war-torn environments.

Directed by Matthew Heineman (City of Ghosts), the filmmaker makes an undeniably interesting turn as a director. The film marks his narrative directorial debut after a series of documentary shorts and features. The film keeps to his documentary style by having a filmmaking sensibility which feels somewhat documentarian in approach: scenes ebb and flow as a documentary would. This isn't a typical Hollywood production. The filmmaking often feels raw with originality.

Films inspired by true stories can sometimes feel false or over-done. A Private War avoids that pitfall and feels like a genuinely inspired story about a woman's determination to shed a light on important issues facing our world at large. As a story about the sincere dedication of a journalist, this film is a love letter to news journalists the world over for their passion and for their value to our society. Don't miss it.

The Blu-ray:


A Private War arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded presentation in the original 2.35:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio. This is a strong presentation of the film which has some worthwhile merits. This excellent quality Blu-ray release has a healthy bit-rate encoding alongside natural film grain and good encoding. The film's cinematography by Robert Richardson (Kill Bill, Hugo, The Aviator) looks impressive here. The natural surroundings of the environment on display throughout the film make for a visually interesting landscape.


The audio is presented with lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound. This is a strong presentation which has good fidelity. The dialogue-driven film still has some engaging surround sequences which help make the experience more engaging, memorable, and thrilling. The film's excellent score is also well reproduced with good clarity. This might not be a total knock-out presentation but it's a highly efficient and effective one which will satisfy audiences.

English SDH subtitles are provided for the deaf and hard of hearing.


Becoming Marie Colvin (HD, 3 min.) is a short behind-the-scenes featurette exploring the transformation for actress Rosamund Pike in playing journalist Marie Colvin.

Women in the World Summit (HD, 10 min.) features a sit-down discussion with director Matthew Heineman and actress Rosamund Pike as the filmmakers discuss the importance of the true-story explored in A Private War and the significance of the narrative.

Requiem for a Private War (HD, 2 min.) is a brief behind-the-scenes featurette about the song composed for the feature.

Final Thoughts:

A Private War is a terrific film which is worthy of a recommendation for the spellbinding performance from Rosamund Pike alone. Pike delivers one of her best performances to date (it's arguably a career best) and she carries her role with a level of authenticity and devotion which is impressive. The cast also includes strong supporting performances from Jamie Dornan and Tom Hollander. Director Matthew Heineman (City of Ghosts) knocks it out of the park with his feature debut after having excelled in documentaries.

The release features terrific picture-quality, excellent lossless audio, and a small but notable selection of extras to make this a release well worth recommending.

Highly Recommended.

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