IR BD Review: A PRIVATE WAR [Aviron/Universal Studios Home Entertainment]

The interplay of energy and depression in “A Private War” is an interesting progression of sorts simply because it standardizes in a way the ideal of extreme situations. Marie Colvin, a real life journalist who was killed in Syria as she was covering the crisis there speaks to the personality of those who take on the most dangerous of jobs, not to fight but to try to understand the psychology and emotions of war…especially civil ones and why such battles are fought. The movie in its narrative leads to the progression and the realization of Marie at some point that despite wanting a family and a baby at certain junctures, those instincts were not as powerful as those leading her into war zones. And, as with most dopamine highs, the lows are reflected even more viciously. Rosamund Pike continues her portrayal of suffering yet extremely vital women who make certain choices to progress their lives further. She doesn’t seek understanding in terms of her character but does seek attention which is an interesting diametric. Of course human nature dictates a sort of deadening of the sense of regular life. Pike is never vain and shows her character in all of her realness while understanding how society changes in different modes of structure.

While most people, even her editor at the newspaper doesn’t quite understand her motivation, Jamie Dornan’s character Paul, a former soldier turned photographer does understand her travails. Dornan’s character is a thankless role per se and is quiet a lot of the time but is also an interesting choice for the actor who does take on more character based roles in comparison to his “Fifty Shades” work which undeniably follows him. The visual milieu of the story is also interesting. The director Matthew Heineman lets the story unfold in almost jump cut progression of Marie’s life as if her existence is almost *and realistically) schizophrenic. Cinematographer Robert Richardson, a genius in his own right, gives the movie an uncommon realism in its photography. While some visual effects are used, he uses Jordan in a very visceral way without betraying that it is not actually Syria or Iraq.

The eventual countdown towards Marie’s eventual loss in Syria seems inevitable but not empty. She was able to bring her perceptions to the masses even if sometimes she couldn’t fully interpret them on a personal level herself. Pike’s moments of breakdown with the character speak to this. When she is simply left alone in a shot in a hotel room with the camera resting on her does one get a full sense of the character she is portraying.

The extras on the disc are specific to the movie but don’t necessarily add any new insight. In “Becoming Marie Colvin”, Rosamund Pike’s perception of shrinking 2 cm because of the tense poise of Colvin does gives her movement credence as does Colvin’s real life photographer Paul Conroy speaking to Pike’s attention to detail as he watched her performing through a monitor. The “Women In The World Summit” Q&A makes sense but does not reveal any undeniable morsels. Finally, Annie Lennox speaking to the writing of the “Requiem” song for the end credits in the final featurette is brief but, in speaking to the opening verse, her explanation makes one realize exactly how she was capturing this woman’s journey.

“A Private War” is an intricate and perhaps overlooked element of the award’s season but speaks to Aviron Releasing approaching unique stories and mid-range pictures, which unfortunately, in the current moviemaking climate, is difficult to maintain on a theatrical level.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

Surrogates – Theatrical Review

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The essence of people disconnecting from their life is a continual threat of technology. Nowadays people can run their entire life from their house without ever having to go outside which is undeniably a problem. The new movie “Surrogates” starring Bruce Willis approaches this subject in an action form structure but like many of Willis’ other films, it has an interesting texture beneath the surface.

One of the most jarring aspects out of the gate is the “surrogates” themselves which are primarily idealized forms of their human operators down to hair and skin tone. The one of Bruce’s character, a detective named Greer, looks like an bleached version of him from the mid 80s. It is Bruce playing the character but it is eerie in what it is which instilled some nervous laughter from some. The key is to get it back to the real man which it does and provides some existential angles.

James Cromwell, who has genre cred because of his turn as the father of warp drive in “Star Trek: First Contact”, has the plum role of the man who created the surrogates but now must examine the consequences of his actions. His intent gives the film weight as there is a similarity to Dr. Eldin Terrell from “Blade Runner” who created the Replicants.

Mistaken identity, superhuman cyborg abilities and the essence of psychology all play a part in this thinking person’s action film. It is by-the-book in many ways but should do well foreign, especially in the Asian market. The film is directed by Jonathan Mostow who directed “U-571” and “Terminator: Rise Of The Machines”. He is an able director but his style is not definitive which, in these types of pictures, can sometimes add to the progression but not as much here. As a result, the technology seems fairly surface driven which might also be a metaphor.

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In many ways, the film has the souped-up but fairly interesting parallel to “Demolition Man” which Joel Silver produced and Sylvester Stallone starred in: effective, capable and entertaining but bland in many respects. The aspect of “Surrogates” that differentiates it a bit is a more extensive perception of the psychology that threatens this society within the picture and its supposed “perfect world”. It gives thought which one always hopes with an action film, even if it is not entirely effective. Out of 5, I give “Surrogates” a 2 1/2.