Film Review: A PRIVATE WAR (USA 2018)

A Private War Poster

One of the most celebrated war correspondents of our time, Marie Colvin is an utterly fearless and rebellious spirit, driven to the frontline of conflicts across the globe to give voice to the voiceless.


Matthew Heineman


Marie Brenner (based on the Vanity Fair article “Marie Colvin’s Private War” by), Arash Amel

A Private War has been described as an American biographical drama film though director Matthew Heineman has made it clear that he did not intend the film to be a run-of-the-mill biography.  This is obvious once the film starts kicking into gear as it becomes clear exactly where the film is heading.  Heineman praises his subject, British journalist, Marie Colvin (an admirable performance by Rosamund Pike despite the film’s flaws) to no end – a martyr for the course of war journalism.  The film is based on the 2012 article “Marie Colvin’s Private War” in Vanity Fair by Marie Brenner and written for the film by Arash Amel.

Heineman’s film begins with Marie Colvin in a war zone doing her job covering the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.  When the film whisks Colman from one war zone to another, ending in HOMS in Syria, it is clear that the film is not really interested in telling the stories of the casualties of war – nor of the sufferings of the people; nor of the lies told by Governments nor of the fact that world needs to be told of what is going on and to be aware (as Colvin, herself says her goal in journalism is).  It is to tell of the heroism of one Marie Colvin – but without the warts at all.

At the film’s worst, Colvin is seen in the battlefield with perfect hair with nicely groomed curls down her sides.  The fact must have been pretty obvious as most of her other war scenes has her hair tied in a bundle.

The film contains no shortage of subtleties.  When Colvin receives the Foreign Correspondent of the year Award, the film quickly moves away from the scene and omits her acceptance speech.  Yes, the audience gets the point the she is not in the business for the fame.  A PRIVATE WAR is all abut Colvin’s conviction in telling stories in dangerous scenarios.  The other fact is her Sunday Times boss, Sean Ryan played by Tom Hollander is always seen in a suit and tie, another indication that the director needs to keep reminding the audience that Colvin is doing a dangerous job in the field while he is having it ‘cushy nice’ in the office.  “I want to tell their stories,” Colvin says at one point in the film.  Heineman isn’t interested in telling ‘their’ stories at all but only her story.  So unsure that his audience will not get the film’s point, the point  has to be said out loud to Colvin in the dialogue:  “If you lose your conviction, what hope do we have?”

The best film about journalism, and one that demands to be seen is Phillip Noyce’s NEWSFRONT, also arguably one of the best Australian films ever made.  Bill Hunter plays a newsreel man in the 60’s in a film that exhorts its heroes in the news without resorting to glamorization and overblown set pieces.  The one shot in NEWSFRONT of a drowned cameraman in a flood he was covering is enough to say it all.  A PRIVATE WAR, in contrast drums the fact into the audience to no end.  Even Colvin’s PTSD (Post Trauma Stress Disorder) is downplayed.  With the scene of her having a bath together with her wealthy lover played by Stanley Tucci, the film has reached its ridiculous limit.

But there is a reward in staying for the closing credits.  Annie Lennox delvers a beautiful rendition of the song “Requiem for a PrivateWar”.



Film Review: FIFTY SHADES FREED (UK 2018)

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Fifty Shades Freed Poster

Anastasia and Christian get married, but Jack Hyde continues to threaten their relationship.


James Foley


Niall Leonard (screenplay by), E.L. James (based on the novel by)


FIFTY SHADES FREED is the third film of the FIFTY SHADES franchise with the first two FIFTY SHADES OF GREY and FIFTY SHADES DARKER winning raspberry awards for worst film and worst acting for its actors.  FIFTY SHADES is likely the worst reviewed film franchise ever though the films have been Universal tons of cash.

The film clearly aims at a female audience.  Imagine the fantasy – Marriage to a wealthy husband with the perfect body, romantic wedding vows, a glamorous lifestyle and most of all, great sexy with S&M thrown in for good measure.

FIFTY SHADES FREED opens with what looks like the perfect wedding.  It is the marriage of Ana (Dakota Fanning) and billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan).  But the matrimonial noon is tested when Ana insists on ‘not being Mrs. Grey’.  She insists on keeping her maiden name, her job and dispenses with a wife’s household duties.  All this results in sexual punishment dished out by her husband.  Ana loves it and keeps going on till she eventually gets pregnant because she missed her shots.  The marriage is on the rocks.  The plot also invokes Ana’s ex-boss, Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) stalking her and wanting to punish her for what she has done to him, which is explained later on in the film.  That is pretty much the film.  Sex, sex, sex, get Ana’s stalker and would-be killer then the end.

FREED can stand on its own with audiences unfamiliar with the stories of the other two films.  Ana met Grey in the first film engaging in S&M sex.  The second film shows her being promised marriage by Grey while having trouble at work with her boss who turns up as the villain in FREED.

The sexual scenes are interesting but goes boring really quickly despite the two perfect bodies of the actors.  For what the script provides, Dakota Fanning does quite a good job at her performance, making the audience care for her despite her gong against all the hubby’s wishes.  Marcia Gay Harden has a small role as Christian’s adoptive mother, but her role is simply awful, involving her to hug the gorgeous Christian at one point in the film.  She looks as if she got a sexual turn on in the film when she holds on to him.

A few things that Universal Pictures got right with this sequel.  The budget is kept the same as the second film at $55 million with a shorter running length.  It is clear that the movie should still make money though expectedly less that the $580 million for the first and $300 million for the second.  At the film’s promo screening, one self touted critic remarked loudly that the film is shit and the editing is shit.  It is easy to condemn a film without giving clear examples.  The editing is actually half decent, especially the S&M scenes, keeping it fairly decent considering the film’s content.  Th car chases are also well cut with ok continuity.  

Having not seen the first two films, I actually enjoyed the tackiness of the film’s first 20 minutes, to see how much rubbish the audience can take in.  But tackiness or not, the film keeps repeating itself (example: the story’s silly excuses for Ana’s behaviour to keep getting sexually punished.)  The S&M are not really imaginative.  I am are everyone has seen a vibrating, dildos or handcuffs.  The film then resorts to ice-cream being slid on the naked bodies.  In Mike Leigh’s LIFE IS SWEET for example, he had a sexual bathroom scene with his two actors covered in chocolate. The film is noticeably drug free.  I am not advocating drug use, but this really stretches the film’s credibility.

James Foley takes over the director’s reins.  Foley has directed decent films in the past, the most notable being Mamet’s GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS.  FIFTY SHADES FREED is obviously not one of them. Foley goes for empty glossiness.  Though the film has a slick look, there is no substance and the polished exterior fades fast.


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Happy Birthday: Amelia Warner

ameliawarner.jpgHappy Birthday actor Amelia Warner

Born: Amelia Catherine Bennett
June 4, 1982 in Liverpool, Merseyside, England, UK

Married to: Jamie Dornan (26 April 2013 – present) (2 children)

Read reviews of the best of the actor:

dir. Stephen Woolley
Leo Gregory
Paddy Considine

Winter Passing
dir. Adam Rapp
Darrell Larson
dir. Philip Kaufman
Geoffrey Rush
Kate Winslet