Hard-edged and harrowed, Rosamund Pike is magnificent in A Private War, the story of Marie Colvin, the behind-the-frontlines war reporter for England's Sunday Times who died in Syria in 2012. Pike wears a black eyepatch for much of the film and makes her voice husky, to suggest years of self-care via cigarettes. Her Colvin snarks and snarls at her editor and her unfaithful husband, and the men around her on her reporting tours of war zones -- Lebanon, Sri Lanka -- spend much of their time aghast at her methods: Rather than embed herself with western troops, she's just going to strike out on her own, to meet civilians or rebel forces? Colvin at first shakes off friends' suggestion that she might be suffering from PTSD after losing that eye in Sri Lanka -- she can't let anything or anyone slow her down, keep her from exposing the horrors of wars the West knows nothing about.
In short, Colvin is very much the kind of crusading hero that men usually play in movies. A Private War succeeds on two fronts. First, it's a celebration/examination of Colvin herself, of the reporter's courage, and the toll that all that time under enemy fire takes on a mind and body. Second: It's the chance to see Pike do all that dude-hero stuff, barging into danger as everyone else tells her not to, insisting on sticking around a basement that's being shelled so that she can broadcast word of Bashar al-Assad's slaughter of his own people.
Still, by emphasizing above all else Colvin's own story, the filmmakers subordinate the stories that Colvin herself cared so deeply about to something like a backdrop.