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Civil War – Review


From Collider

Civil War written and directed by Alex Garland is an interesting and even powerful story, in theory. It follows a group of photo journalists making their way from New York City to D.C. Their goal? Interview the President of the United States during a Civil War that has left the country in disarray. However, to me this film falls flat. The performance’s in the film are superb but on the script level it falls apart for various reasons. If it was ever possible to tell a story about Civil War and involve absolutely no political commentary this movie has done it. The film is harrowing at times and head-scratching at others, here is my review for Alex Garland’s Civil War.

From Los Angeles Times


In Civil War as I mentioned before you have no idea why the United States is even in this situation in the first place. You are thrown into the thick of it as you follow a core group of journalists led by Kirsten Dunst who plays Lee Smith a famous war photographer who has to unfortunately brought her work to her home turf. These journalists have no strong view on the war itself, only focusing on documenting it. Instead the film focuses on what it takes to be a photo-journalist in the midst of chaos. This allows the film to play all sides to an extent. Honestly, I would be fine with that, if the film delved deep into other themes and really enriched its characters.

However, we really don’t touch on any themes besides war is bad and we should definetely not engage in a Civil War in the US. Which is a good message for sure but what else? Is that all? The thing is we already know these things. So how do we stop ourselves from getting to this point as tensions in the US come to a rise before our next presidential election? The film seems to revel in but also be revolted by the war that we see on screen.

On the character front we really don’t get much either. The side characters have no arcs and the main leads don’t fair any better. Lee Smith starts the film as a hardened individual jaded by her past. A newcomer Jessie played by Cailee Spaeney is a young journalist. She looks up to Lee and forces her way into the journey to D.C. We see Lee soften a bit towards Cailee and I was really excited to see where their relationship would lead. What it does lead to is a third act decision that I feel betrays Lee’s character.

As for the war itself it feels like the Western Forces (Texas and California) and the Loyalist States are playing war instead of fighting one. As Lee and crew travel they come across different situations and battles that feel like the soldiers have no orders whatsoever and are just fighting for the sake of it. The movie seems to make a point about this in the film as the gang come across two Western Forces soldiers who are pinned down by a sharpshooter in a nearby house. When asked who they are fighting for or what they are even doing they simply reply that someone is trying to kill them. If you thought the movie had anything else to say on the matter I can assure you it does not.

I think that the third act really sealed my feelings on this movie. The trip into D.C. is something the film hypes up a lot. As we get to that point all of it just does not hit. As I mentioned earlier a third act decision by Lee will have you scratching your head, ultimately wondering what it was all even for.

From Chicago Sun-Times


The saving grace of this movie is definetely the craftmanship behind and in front of the camera. It holds up the barebones script and at times makes the film harrowing. It may seem like I hate this movie so far but I will give credit where credit is due. I do like that the movie gives little glimpses into what a Civil War in America could look like. As the gang travels they come across different pockets of humanity in all of the chaos. This is where the movie is definetely the most interesting. Logistics aside Civil War shows a war between Americans and it is truly terrifying. Again though the movie could have done more with these elements especially since its what the movie does the best.

All of the performances are excellent with Kirsten Dunst really giving it her all. Dunst really makes Lee seem as though she had seen it all. Disregarding her third act choices Lee Smith as a character is entirely believable. The cinematography is breathtaking and I never found myself wanting to take my eyes off the screen due to how well the movie is shot. I’d also like to shoutout the sound in the movie which is terrific. Every gunshot is felt, the dialog is crisp, and for what little soundtrack the movie does have it fits the movie very well. The most striking thing about the movie is the photographs that are taken by either Lee or Jessie.

The film does this thing where all the sound cuts off for a split second as we see the photo take up the entire screen. The photos depict brutal acts of violence. It really makes you stop for a second and just take in what is really happening. Loss of life and destruction, which is what wars always lead too. In this case it’s neighbor’s turning on neighbors, brothers on brothers. One character in the film remarks that he went to high school with a guy that he currently has strung up and beaten to a bloody pulp. The film truly shines in these moments and is what separates it from just another war movie.

From Politico


The bottom line is that for me this movie could have been so much more if it actually had the guts to commit to anything besides the classic war is a scourge on humanity. The thing is that most of us already know that, and the film never really is interested in saying anything else, besides some very light commentary on journalism. If you’re coming into this movie for the spectacle I would say that you will find some of it here but honestly that too will probably disappoint. The fatal flaw of this movie is that it simply has no bite and that’s a shame.

Civil War is in cinemas now. Don’t forget to check out Ava’s review of City Lights and Jaxson’s experiences at GDC. For everything else geeky stay right here on Geekwave.


RATING: 6.5/10


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About the Contributor
Ronny Hammond
Ronny Hammond, Director of Online Publication
Ronny goes by he/him pronouns and is a Junior at the U. He loves to read and write and is currently obtaining his Bachelors degree in English and Game Design. He has a deep love for video games and would always be up talk your ear off about The Last Of Us. You can read up on his game reviews and listen to his guest appearances on the Crimson Gaming Corner and Wishful Thinking podcasts right here on Geekwave.