Civil War Review

Friday 12 April 2024

Plot: A journey across a dystopian future America, following a team of military-embedded journalists as they race against time to reach DC before rebel factions descend upon the White House.

Film: Civil War

Director: Alex Garland

Writer: Alex Garland

Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura, Cailee Spaeney

Perhaps the most echoed sentiment to come out of the film Civil War, is how close to Alex Garland’s fictional America we really are. From the privatisation of the military and factions blooming from rebellious states, things don’t look so different as someone watching the news from the sidelines in the UK. 

Garland’s near-future depiction of America’s second civil war challenges conventional perceptions of warfare, especially within developed nations. Through the lens of war photographer Lee (Kirsten Dunst) and journalist Joel (Wagner Moura), the narrative unfolds in a way that’s as unbiased as possible. This perspective offers a unique vantage point, free from allegiance to any particular faction, yet providing intimate insights into the motivations driving various states’ actions as we meet them along the way.

Accompanying Lee and Joel is Jessie, portrayed with an understated depth by rising talent Cailee Spaeny. Jessie’s journey from novice photographer to witness of societal upheaval serves as an emotional anchor, imbuing the film with a humanising touch sometimes absent in Garland’s work.

While this is obviously a political film, the actual politics take a backseat to the depiction of conflict itself. The president’s ambiguous beliefs, portrayed with an arrogance akin to a certain former leader by Nick Offerman, serve as a backdrop to the central narrative. Notably, the narrative subtly hints at the unifying force of the crisis, as evidenced by the unlikely alliance between Texas and California, the two states with perhaps the most opposite political views. 

Garland’s vagueness regarding the catalyst for societal collapse lends authenticity to the narrative. This uncertainty, which may be a problem for some viewers, I found personally enhanced the film’s realism, and I felt challenged us as the viewers to make our decision on the plausibility of such events.

A slow-burning narrative builds tension steadily, culminating in a gripping finale. For fans of the post-apocalyptic genre this film will satisfy in a more subtle way while also perhaps giving you a glimpse into the future.

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