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Civil War
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Movie Critic Dave's Ratings
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Release:
April 12, 2024
Rated:
R
Run Time:
109 min
Homepage:
Budget:
$50,000,000
Revenue:
$108,969,206
Review
By Movie Critic Dave

America’s political landscape has always been contentious, but it was Donald Trump’s entrance into the arena in 2015 that saw the vitriol between Democrats and Republicans reach what feels like an unfixable splintering. This gloomy outlook has become the backdrop to Alex Garland’s buzzy SXSW headliner, Civil War. The writer-turned-director transformed his impressive knack for penning creative sci-fi stories into a full-fledged filmmaking career as the visionary behind movies such as Ex-Machina, Annihilation, and Men. Yet, this time around, Garland sets his sights on a futuristic, war-torn America where city streets have become dangerous war zones. Tapping into this bleak, yet by no means unfathomable hypothetical scenario, Civil War is guaranteed to have audiences from all over the political spectrum talking.

 

The film opens with the American President (played by Parks and Rec’s Nick Offerman) declaring victory over the successionist Western Forces of California and Texas. However, war zone journalist Joel (Narcos’ Wagner Moura) and photographer Lee (Kirsten Dunst) sense a much different reality as they try to capture the realities of this war within United States. As rumors start to swirl of these opposing forces descending upon Washington D.C. to overthrow the President once and for all, Joel and Lee race to the nation’s capital along with fellow journalist Sammy (Dune: Part One’s Stephen McKinley Henderson) and the young aspiring photographer Jessie (Priscilla’s Cailee Spaeny). Yet, nothing can prepare them for the brutal realities that await all across their 800-mile journey to the White House. 

 

 

Alex Garland’s foray into filmmaking began with a bang. 2014’s Ex-Machina was a taut, thought-provoking exploration of Artificial Intelligence, and one that helped bring A24 to the forefront of independent cinema. Unfortunately, though, it’s been a slight but steady decrease for Garland’s film catalog ever since. Annihilation proved to be another heady sci-fi that was less mainstream but still quite effective. His next film, Men, polarized audiences but still had a loyal fanbase. And as for Garland’s latest effort, Civil War, marks a new low for the filmmaker. It’s a hollow and superficial story that’s more about the harrowing experiences of war-zone journalists than anything else. For a movie titled “Civil War” and one that uses an irreversibly fractured Unites States as its backdrop, there’s a refusal to address what specifically caused this breaking point. In fact, Civil War intentionally shies away from political discord (outside of one brief but tense scene headlined by Jesse Plemons). This failure to tackle the film’s central, namesake thesis is a bit of a headscratcher and crushes the validity of Civil War altogether.

 

 

Despite delivering a viewing experience unlike anything suggested by the film’s marketing, Garland’s Civil War does an admirable job of illustrating the insane but invaluable professions of war-zone reporters and photographers. Witnessing these characters rush towards gunfire and continually put their lives on the line for the purpose of showing the world first-hand accounts regarding the atrocities of war is astonishing. However, despite this eye-opening realization, Garland’s script fails to bring depth to the film’s central characters. Kirsten Dunst and Cailee Spaeny do their best with what they’ve been given, but they haven’t been given much.

 

Outside a few sporadic moments of strength and offering a unique perspective of those obligated to capture the harsh reality of battle, Civil War stands as a bland and shallow money grab effort from the usually reliable A24 studios. Alex Garland is capable of better as both a writer and director, yet this time around he fails to deliver on what was advertised. Somewhere within the premise of Civil War resides a more opportune and fascinating story, but it’s one that’s nowhere to be found in this film.

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