Civil War

Civil War is a movie that is a cross between Orwell and the gritty, urban, realistic action thrillers of the last couple of decades. The movie has sensational, albeit unsettling action, yet it features a story and characters that are always interesting. There is a deep sense of connection as the characters journey through this dystopian nightmare.

Kirsten Dunst stars as Lee Smith, a photojournalist who covers the Second American Civil War in the not-too-distant future. During a bombing in New York, Jessie and her colleague Joel (Wagner Moura) rescue a girl named Jessie (Cailee Spaeny) from the attacks.

Jessie is a huge fan of Lee’s and wants to join them on their quest to interview the President despite the chaotic landscape, but Lee reluctantly agrees and even becomes a mentor of sorts to Jessie.

America is once again divided but into separate lands: California and Texas are known as the Western Forces; most of the country, including Washington D.C., is the Dictatorship’s Loyalist states; the South is known as the Florida Alliance, and states such as Washington and Oregon are called the New People’s Army.

Writer/director Alex Garland never gives us a plausible reason why the U.S. has descended into a new civil war. However, I think leaving the cause as absolute is the only justification because no real explanation could be completely sufficient.

The movie, no doubt, is a meditation and an unnerving vision of a possible future. Depending on their political leanings, some audiences will see it as a cautionary tale of what happens when its government allows its policies to go far beyond the confines of its power.

However, Civil War is a film that terrifically and realistically crosses its ideas with no-holds-barred action. The war sequences are believable because they don’t rely on silly CGI but rather bleak and uncompromising imagery.

The performances are really strong as well, with Dunst, Moura, and Spaeny delivering top-notch work as people who do their jobs with commitment and efficiency but aren’t afraid to lose their humanity when the war makes them reach their breaking points.

Civil War might alienate audiences who seem disillusioned by its message about our current climate, but it’s also thrilling, well-acted, and not afraid to be consistently audacious in its concept and execution.

Grade: A-

(Rated R for strong violent content, bloody/disturbing images, and language throughout.)


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