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Rosamund Pike is a force to be reckoned with in “A Private War”

I think it’s fair to say that Rosamund Pike does not get enough work. Even though she really broke through to the masses with her role in Gone Girl, she’s been wowing onscreen long before that. Since that breakthrough, she hasn’t quite become an A-lister, though it’s folly to sleep on her talents. This week, you get another example of that with A Private War, featuring arguably her best performance to date. It’s a riveting turn by someone who should once again be on Oscar’s radar. She helps lift up this flawed yet compelling film and turn it into something well worth watching.

This movie is a biopic of war correspondent Marie Colvin (Pike). One of the most celebrated journalists of her ilk, Marie is fearless, known as a crusader and someone who gives voice to the voiceless. Things change for Marie at first when, while covering atrocities in Sri Lanka, she suffers an eye injury. Forced to wear an eye patch, she’s still determined to catch the truth and shine a light on the worst of the world. This causes tension with her editor Sean Ryan (Tom Hollander), not to mention sacrificing romance at multiple turns. Still, Marie is Marie, and when an assignment in the utterly devastated city of Homs in Syria comes up, she teams with well regarded war photographer Paul Conroy (Jamie Dornan) to tell the civilians’ stories. It’s a job that will cost them so much. Matthew Heineman directs a script by Arash Amel, while supporting cast members include Faye Marsay, Stanley Tucci, and more. The great Robert Richardson handles the cinematography, while H. Scott Salinas provides the score.

Rosamund Pike is an absolute wrecking ball here. She embraces this complicated character and gives it her entire soul as an actress. It stands tall with her turn in Gone Girl as the best of her career (she’s also great in Barney’s Version, if you’ve never seen that one). Pike does some real damage here. Perhaps surprisingly too, Jamie Dornan is solid here. Dornan is done with the Fifty Shades world, and the refreshing change shows in his work. Arash Amel’s script is hit or miss, which kind of undercuts Pike at times, but director Matthew Heineman counteracts that as best he can with some striking images. Credit to DP Robert Richardson for that as well. Still, it’s very much the Pike show here.

Awards wise, A Private War really will have a hard road ahead in order to get an Oscar nomination. Pretty much, it’s Rosamund Pike or bust. Pike in Best Actress is an outside possibility, though more likely than not, her efforts will for short. She easily could get some precursor attention, and who knows, anything is possible? It just seems like she’ll fall through the cracks, contender wise. It’s a shame too, as she’s Academy Award worthy, but the odds just are not in her favor. Alas. The performance is more than up to the level of a golden statue, just know that.

In just a few days, audiences will get a shot to see what all the fuss is about Pike’s turn here when A Private War hits theaters. She really is extraordinary here, as good as she’s ever been before. Even if nothing else here worked, she’s able to put it on her shoulders. Luckily, there’s a compelling story on display, if one that occasionally gets too melodramatic for its own good. Pike is the reason to see it, aside from learning about a brave journalist who deserves to have her name be engrained in everyone’s minds. This is a tale worth telling.

Be sure to check out Pike in A Private War, starting up its theatrical run this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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