• Tue. May 28th, 2024

Civil War – Alex Garland’s Latest Film Hits Hard!

ByTaylor T Carlson

Apr 9, 2024

CIVIL WAR is directed by Alex Garland. The film stars Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura, Cailee Spaeny, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Nick Offerman.

In the not-too-distant future, the United States of America has descended into a second Civil War, with breakaway republics declaring war against the Union, marching on Washington, DC. A quartet of photojournalists from different walks of life bands together in an SUV, heading towards DC to attempt to photograph and interview the President of the United States prior to rebel forces descending on what remains of the nation’s capital, encountering a war-torn landscape along the way, with horrific sights and occurrences in a county gradually descending into madness.

CIVIL WAR is a work of fiction, but what makes Alex Garland’s film hard-hitting is just how relevant it is and how this could truly be our nation in a few short years, where clashing beliefs are becoming more explosive with each passing day. Told from the perspective of journalists, CIVIL WAR shocks viewers and is completely relentless, earning its R rating with brutal acts of violence, but also carefully never shying away from its human element. Whether you see it as a well-made work of realistic fiction or a cautionary tale of what our world is moving towards, there’s no denying this is one of the best films of 2024 so far.

Where CIVIL WAR shines brightest is its cast, particularly leading lady Kirsten Dunst. We’ve been seeing this woman on the big screen since she was a little girl, often in roles where she’s dolled up and glamorized. In CIVIL WAR, that’s far from the case. This is a woman devoid of makeup who’s clearly been beaten down by the harsh realities of the world, but won’t back down from her mission of bringing people the news of what’s going on in a war-torn nation. It’s a complete turn from the roles we’re used to seeing Dunst play, and it may be the best of her career. The other journalists, including a young and inexperienced aspiring one played by Cailee Spaeny and an aging, crippled one portrayed by Stephen McKinley Henderson, round out the cast nicely. Whether a horrific war-torn moment or a lighthearted bonding experience, everyone has a great chemistry.

Production design is impressive as well. The sets and locales of CIVIL WAR don’t look like movie sets; they look like the real America in ruins amid internal fighting and conflicts. Movies about the United States torn apart by wars from within aren’t exactly anything new, but rarely has it been done this well and on this scale. The stops on the road include towns that are oblivious to the conflict and trying to stay out of it altogether, mass graves, city streets turned into battlefields, and of course, Washington, DC in the midst of a violent conflict with the American President at the heart of it all.

The film’s approach works for many reasons. Putting it from the perspective of photojournalists rather than the actual combatants makes the movie far more relatable from the perspective of the viewer; no one is expected to “take a side” or consider one group superior to the other/right or wrong/etc. Many movies regarding politics and the wars that they created are very obviously veered in favor of or are attacking one side, but CIVIL WAR succeeds because it doesn’t do that. The movie isn’t a nonstop violent action endeavor; there are many moments where our characters bond and get to know one another, which also works to the movie’s advantage. But when the violent moments get going, they quickly move into unsettling R-rated territory. We even see brief flashes of the black-and-white photographs taken by many of the characters as they snap shots amid the battles of the war, which helps to give the movie a unique feel and look.

Perhaps the only thing I found mildly disappointing about this otherwise spectacular film is that it never delves deeper into the specific causes of the titular conflict. What specifically caused these states to break away from the Union? What’s the future of the world to look like when the film has ended? CIVIL WAR is a movie that believed strongly in ambiguity; you’ll likely have more questions than answers. Whether that’s a strength or weakness will depend on the viewer.

CIVIL WAR hits hard. It’s the best movie of 2024 so far. Quite possibly Alex Garland’s strongest film to date as a writer/director, and maybe even the best performance of Kirsten Dunst’s career. Absolute highest recommendations, but not one for the squeamish!

By Taylor T Carlson

Taylor T Carlson Assistant Editor/Senior Staff Writer Taylor T. Carlson was born August 17, 1984, and has called the Vegas Valley home his entire life. A die-hard fan of classic rock and metal music, Taylor has been writing album and concert reviews since he was 16 years old, and continues to do so, having done well over 1,000 reviews. He is also a fan of video gaming and cinema, and has reviewed a number of games and films as well, old and new alike. His thorough and honest (some would say brutally honest) reviewing style has won him the respect of hundreds of music fans and musicians alike, both local and abroad, and the ire of just as many others. Despite being one of the youngest attendees at classic hard rock/metal shows around Vegas, he is also one of the most knowledgeable, having gained the unofficial nickname of “The Eddie Trunk of Las Vegas.” In addition to reviews, Taylor has written and self-published three books on classic hard rock bands, and is a regular participant in rock and roll trivia contests. Taylor also holds a masters degree in special education from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), and has appeared on the hit History Channel television series Pawn Stars. His dream is to be able to one day make a living from writing music books and reviews.

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