Home Movie Reviews ‘Civil War’ – Review
‘Civil War’ – Review

‘Civil War’ – Review


At the moment, the world feels like a fraught and turbulent place, and celebrated writer/director Alex Garland captures the zeitgeist of that energy with Civil War, his unique science-fiction take on a new millennium American-civil war, and the whole experience will take you by surprise.

In a dystopian future America, a team of military-embedded journalists (Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura, Cailee Spaeny, Stephen McKinley Henderson) races against time to reach Washington, D.C., before rebel factions descend upon the White House.

Alex Garland has built a career with a singular creative voice that has seen him traverse the mediums of print, video games, television and film, and he’s become known as a filmmaker who has the ability to think outside of the box and deliver a cinematic experience that truly confronts an audience. With Civil War, Garland takes the idea of a second American Civil War and delivers audiences right into the breach, playing around with an equal mix of emotion and suspense, and the result hammers you back into your seat. He takes the narrative of a road movie and applies it to an almost contemporary science-fiction experience as audiences race alongside a ragtag group of war journalists led by the enigmatic yet burnt-out veteran Lee Smith (Kirsten Dunst). Civil War is an experience that doesn’t let up for its 109 minutes of screen time.

Since the beginning of his career, Garland has brought a uniquely punk-rock energy to his work, and Civil War is all punk. With its almost documentary-like focus, an emphasis on hand-held footage and the presence of a gritty in-your-face shooting style courtesy of cinematographer Rob Hardy, which mimics real-world war photography and videography, and the growing influence of social media capture, the audience is right in it at ground level. Garland plays with contrasts and perspectives and presents the narrative very much from the perspective of the war photographer and the emotional scares that hit those who witness the raw edge of human savagery. Further mixed into it is a unique ‘family drama’ courtesy of the four main protagonists (Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura, Cailee Spaeny, Stephen McKinley Henderson), and the emotions run high with this picture.

Leading Civil War is Kirsten Dunst as Lee Smith, an erratic and completely burnt-out conflict photographer who, witnessing America’s collapse, is, well, just another day at the office. What we see in Dunst’s performance is that she is an actress who is ready to push the limit with her craft, and she wants to take a risk with something different from anything she’s done. Well, Civil War fits the ticket, and she’s right in the middle of the onslaught of bullets, explosives and human insanity that lies at the heart of Civil War. Counteracting Dunst’s Lee is Cailee Spaeny as Jessie, a young aspiring war photographer who idolises Dunst’s Lee and who gets a hell of a wake-up call, and she’s damn impressive in the role. Wagner Moura is a straight-up maverick as journalist Joel, who is desperate for a prized scoop, while Stephen McKinley Henderson is the sage-like Sammy, a veteran journalist who tags along but who knows that things won’t end well.

Civil War is a sensory and evocative watch, and it captures the long quiet and sudden terror that conflict brings to all it touches. Image and sound blend together for Civil War, and Garland shows that he is a serious hand when it comes to handling suspense, and he inspires a deep sense of dread in his audience. Many tense moments are waiting in Civil War, and plenty of horrors are on show as the most modern culture begins to fall apart. A standout moment can be attributed to Jesse Plemons’s cameo appearance as a psychopathic ultranationalist militiaman. Your heart will be palpitating with adrenaline through these ten minutes of abject terror.

For the total experience of Civil War, the IMAX experience is preferable, and damn does Garland and A24 deliver on the BOOM. This is a HUGE and LOUD film, and the final act is an explosive experience of Full Metal Jacket automatic fire. In the presence of the IMAX experience, you’ll be holding on for dear life in this incendiary moment, and by the end, you’ll be absolutely spent.

Civil War is not the film we had expected, and it delivers on the adrenaline and the rush of its cinematic punk science fiction experience. This is a piece of cinema for audiences who like their movies wild, and you won’t be disappointed.

Image: Roadshow Films