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Civil War (A Movie Review)

CIVIL WAR (2024)

Starring Kirsten Dunst, Cailee Spaeny, Wagner Moura, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Nick Offerman, Nelson Lee, Evan Lai, Sonoya Mizuno, Jefferson White, Juani Feliz, Edmund Donovan, Karl Glusman, Jin Ha, Jojo T. Gibbs, Jess Matney and Jesse Plemons.

Screenplay by Alex Garland.

Directed by Alex Garland.

Distributed by A24. 109 minutes. Rated R.

Civil War takes place in the very near future, a look at an America that is at war with itself and violently coming apart at the seams. It’s a dystopian wasteland with hundreds of abandoned cars, burnt out cities, gunfights punctuating the night, abandoned corpses and people turning on each other. It’s a very depressing thing to speculate about. Particularly because none of it seems all that far-fetched from where we are in history.

Interestingly, the writer/director Alex Garland doesn’t really bother with the politics of the situation. We never completely know what has caused the rift in the States – we are just plummeted into the situation with little or no understanding of the reasoning behind the conflict.

Even occasional hints are somewhat confounding. For example the force taking on the American government is apparently a coalition between the states of Texas and California – and I don’t think in reality you can find two more diametrically different States. Also the US President, as played by Nick Offerman, is somewhat reminiscent of Donald Trump, and yet in other ways he is not.

Garland seems to be saying it really doesn’t matter to the story that he is telling. Once the war has come, the causes sort of blur into the background. This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around.

Civil War revolves around four war correspondents who are crossing the country in a news van trying to cover the story, and hopefully get an interview with the President.

These (extremely) intrepid journalists are: Lee (Kirsten Dunst), a renowned but rather jaded photo journalist, Jesse (Cailee Spaeny), an extremely young-looking photographer who idolizes Lee and is still old-school enough to use a 35mm film camera, Joel (Wagner Moura), a writer who seems to be just a bit too excited by the warfare going on around them and Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson), an aging journalist who is much more circumspect and concerned about all that is going on around them.

Interestingly, although the two women are constantly taking pictures and the two men are supposedly writing the stories, they have no way of forwarding the pictures (cell coverage is gone) and they guys never seem to actually get around to writing.

However, they cheat death many times in their voyage across country to Washington DC. They realize very few people can be trusted at this point and are nearly constantly getting shot at. They also realize quickly that their press credentials are not going to keep them safe.

In general I am not a huge fan of dystopian films, but I have to admit that Civil War is a particularly gripping one, particularly in its fast-paced, danger-filled climax. The sight of Washington DC under attack, with trashed cars piled up to make barricades and missiles lighting up the night sky is disturbing, to say the least. And a brief earlier segment with Jesse Plemons as a renegade soldier deciding who is a “real American” is one of the more harrowing scenes in recent cinema.

Director Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation) has been saying that Civil War will probably be his last directing job, at least for the foreseeable future. (He will probably continue on as a screenwriter.) If that is indeed the case, Civil War is a pretty good way to sign off.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2024 All rights reserved. Posted: April 12, 2024.

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