Civil War

Civil War
User Rating

Civil War Movie Review Rating:

Star Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura, Cailee Spaeny, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Sonoya Mizuno, and Nick Offerman

Director: Alex Garland

Civil War Movie Review: Alex Garland Returns With A24's Biggest Film, But the Film's Refusal To Examine Its Characters And World Makes It Empty
Civil War Movie Review (Photo Credit – IMDb)

What’s Good: Garland’s direction is still as sublime as before, conjuring great visuals and a powerful atmosphere.

What’s Bad: The film lacks context for its world and characters; only the most superficial remnants of conflict and motivation propel them forward.

Loo Break: The film has a very paper-thin plot, so you can skip some of the vignettes and still get everything the movie is trying to say, which is not much.

Watch or Not?: Like Garland’s films, Civil War is still quite enjoyable and will ignite conversation.

Language: English (with subtitles).

Available At: Theaters

Runtime: 109 Minutes.

User Rating:

Alex Garland is undoubtedly one of the most exciting filmmakers of the 21st century, and his career, as his films, has been anything but orthodox, having started as a novelist to jump into writing films and then directing them. Civil War, his latest cinematic effort, pulls from everything Garland has done in the past, and while his ability to craft powerful atmospheres and enchanting visuals is still there, Garland has been losing the thread when it comes to telling captivating stories.

Civil War Movie Review: Alex Garland Returns With A24's Biggest Film, But the Film's Refusal To Examine Its Characters And World Makes It Empty
Civil War Movie Review (Photo Credit – IMDb)

Civil War Movie Review: Script Analysis

Civil War could be considered a piece of speculative fiction, in the same vein as something like “The Man in the High Castle,” a novel written by Philip K. Dick, where World War II went the opposite way for the Allies and left a defeated USA divided by its conquerors; The Nazi, and the Japanese Empire. Like that by Philip K. Dick, Garland tries to transport us to another reality where the USA is suffering a second civil war, changing the landscape of the country forever once again, with states like California and Texas becoming allies and fighting against the established government.

This idea sounds perfect on paper, but sadly, Garland has chosen to not enter any details regarding how the reality of his film ended up in the situation. Instead, the movie is, in fact, a character study centered around the character of Lee Smith, a photojournalist who is on a mission to get a picture of the President of the United States before he is killed or arrested. That is it. The movie wants to avoid dwelling on the world that the characters are living in, and it also refuses to examine the characters beyond a very surface level, so the result is a movie with nothing to say.

This is a double-edged sword because while the movie has nothing to say about anything, it serves as a canvas so the audience can fill the blank spaces with their biases. This results in many conversations about what the movie wants to say, its message, and its message, but in reality, the film only serves as a reflection of the audience. If that is the film’s point, it was successful, but that doesn’t make it a good movie either; it is just a concept with several ideas thrown at the screen without structure or purpose.

The setting and the concept of a modern civil war in the USA are wasted, as it doesn’t matter that the war is happening in that country. The movie could have done precisely what it does with its characters and story in any other place, and it wouldn’t have mattered at all. Without context for the world or the characters, the story lacks resonance, and it works mainly as a series of vignettes instead of a full-fleshed story. Of course, creating an actual fictional world that still manages to find a balance between sides of the conflict and being separated from real-world politics would be more challenging, but it would have been much more satisfying.

Civil War Movie Review: Star Performance

It is hard to talk about the characters in Civil War because they are so undefined, and this makes them incredibly superficial, which is sad because, in previous films like Ex Machina and Annihilation, Garland has proved that he can create compelling characters; here, these main characters are just glimpses of something, in this case, journalists, but they never act like journalists at all. Kirsten Dunst does excellently, but she never feels alive, and that is the point, as I believe that if the movie is about something, it is about journalism and desensitization in the media.

However, those themes are never developed, and the characters, like every other theme in the movie, are more of a footnote than something relevant to the plot or the story. In the end, Cailee Spaeny does the best at being a sort of surrogate for the audience, but there is so little to learn that her inclusion, other than proving that the cycle of violence never ends, feels wasted. Wagner Moura also does his best with a foolish and useless character. There are a lot of useless characters in this film.

Civil War Movie Review: Alex Garland Returns With A24's Biggest Film, But the Film's Refusal To Examine Its Characters And World Makes It Empty
Civil War Movie Review (Photo Credit – IMDb)

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