Civil War

Civil War Review: A Chilling Dystopian Thriller

A terrifying vision of a broken America!

A24’s new dystopian thriller, Civil War, sees a near-future United States embroiled in a civil war that has torn the country to pieces. Conflict, mass murder, and confusion—scenes that Westerners have typically only witnessed through news channels or in newspapers, reminiscent of events in third-world countries. Yet, if we’re brutally honest, most of us don’t give it a second thought. And that is the question Alex Garland has posed: What if? What if it happened here? The answer, is terrifying.

Garland wastes no time; we’re thrown into the deep end as the film opens with the war already at an advanced stage. Cities lie in ruins, bodies hang in the streets. Immediately, we’re introduced to Nick Offerman as the President, who apparently has granted himself a third term and is refusing to leave the Oval Office. He has barricaded himself in the White House and we see him rehearsing for his latest televised speech. Offerman’s president is a magniloquent figure with a whiff of Trump about him, and this is pretty much the film’s only hint at any real-world politics of today.

civil war
Image Credit: A24

Rather than focusing on the soldiers on the front lines, the story is told through a group of war correspondents as they document the chaos. Veteran war journalist and photographer Lee (Kirsten Dunst) leads the team, which features an outlandish, boozy writer named Joel (Wagner Moura), a young, over-enthusiastic photojournalist named Jessie (Cailee Spaeny), who blags her way onto the team, and old-timer Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson).

Lee is visibly war-torn, haunted by years of witnessing humanity at its worst. It has chipped away at her soul, and she emphasizes to the shell-shocked rookie Jessie that it’s not their job to wrestle with ethics but to record and document so that others can ask the questions. With the lure of a big story unfolding in DC and the opportunity to photograph and interview the president, the team embarks on a perilous journey, despite being warned that journalists are shot on site in the capital.

civil war
Image Credit: A24

Civil War leaves us to piece together the circumstances of these times ourselves; it’s deliberately vague, and this may cause some frustration. But slowly, it comes together that Texas and California are operating under a two-star flag; they have joined together as the ‘Western Forces’ and have largely defeated the ‘Florida Alliance’…as I said, vague.

The firefights in the final act as troops descend into Washington are some of the most gripping cinematic moments so far this year.

So, with Garland appearing to stay away from political aspects we focus in on the individuals and how they cope with the brutalities of war, and it is just that. Garland is brutal; he doesn’t shy away from the destructive capability of human nature, and Jesse Plemons’ cameo is a good example of this. And if you ever need a reminder of just how good Plemons is as a bad guy, this is up there!

civil war
Image Credit: A24

Civil War is a chillingly realistic war film, filled with shock and awe. The cinematography is gorgeous. The firefights in the final act as troops descend into Washington are some of the most gripping cinematic moments so far this year. Coupled with Alex Garland’s use of photography stills captured by Kirsten Dunst’s Lee and Cailee Spaeny’s Jessie, as they capture a split second of truth amid the destruction and chaos, all add to the visual spectacle. Beautifully made, it will thump your senses at any given moment.

Garland strips away all political context from the combat, turning the movie into a showcase of the terrifying realities of war experienced by individuals. The answer to the question “What if?” hits close to home for all of us—and it’s utterly terrifying.

Civil War is now playing in cinemas worldwide.

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