Thursday, April 11, 2024

Civil War

Beautifully shot while exploring complicated ideas that may make some audiences uncomfortable, Alex Garland's Civil War works on multiple levels. First, the film gives us an up-close look at war correspondent journalism following a foursome through a ravaged war-torn land. Allowing that land to be America in a recognizable not-too-distant future is the second major point of the film which offers a cautionary tale to the current polarized environment which includes many far-right nutbags actively praying and cheering across social media for such events to occur. The message of the movie is clear, be careful what you wish for.

Our protagonists are photographer Lee Smith (Kirsten Dunst) known for getting the difficult shots on the most dangerous assignments and her more carefree reporting partner on the road Joel (Wagner Moura). Joining them on this latest road trip are Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson), an elderly mentor to them both, and aspiring young photographer Jessie (Cailee Spaeny).

The film's tension ebbs and flows across different stops on the trip, including some disturbing interactions with both locals and militia of various intelligence and temperament, interspersed with shots of empty cities and countryside. You will likely be able to guess who in this car will survive to the final scene and who will not. Not spending any time to explain just how these different territorial factions work (or even how many there are or what the differences are between them) is one of the weaker aspects of the script. And even if we can get our heads around the likelihood of Texas and California agreeing on anything, which doesn't seem extremely likely, how exactly are they a cohesive unit with a number of other states in-between that are on different sides?

Garland succeeds in crafting a terrifying potential look at the future while also spending time and effort to showcase the dangers reporters face, and the emotional and physical scars that are left, from covering these types of situations. There's a surreal sequence where our reporters find themselves in a small pocket of normalcy surrounded by chaos and death which is so unfathomable to them you understand just how far things have devolved by this point which makes the more disturbing sequences of the movie hit home even harder.

While not perfect, Civil War is an easy recommendation. I also believe it's a film that would be more impactful as a shared experience in a theater surrounded by strangers, where its uncomfortable moments will hit harder, rather than the comfort of your own home.  Even if Civil War isn't likely a film I would return to anytime soon, if ever, it's still a memorable experience and some damn fine filmmaking.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Civil War
  • IMDb: link

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