A24’s Biggest Gamble: ‘Civil War’

Rating: 4/5 Stars 
Kirsten Dunst as Lee Smith and Cailee Spaeny as Jessie in Civil War
Kirsten Dunst as Lee Smith and Cailee Spaeny as Jessie in ‘Civil War’

A24’s latest cinematic offering, “Civil War,” directed by Alex Garland, ventures into the heart of dystopia with a twist. Rather than navigating familiar post-apocalyptic landscapes, the film embarks on a journey alongside war journalists travelling 800 miles to secure an interview with the President of the United States.

Cailee Spaeny as Jessie in ‘Civil War’

Yet, “Civil War” isn’t solely about the dark backdrop it paints; it serves as a compelling exploration of journalistic integrity in a society on the brink of collapse. Amidst this conflict, Kirsten Dunst delivers a captivating performance as Lee Smith, anchoring the narrative with poise and depth. For instance, in one scene, Dunst’s character confronts a terrorist, her voice steady yet impassioned as she stays calm, showcasing her unwavering commitment to uncovering reality amidst chaos.

Kirsten Dunst as Lee Smith and Wagner Moura as Joel in ‘Civil War’

However, while the film is ambitious in its themes, the execution sometimes stumbles. Wagner Moura, usually a powerhouse on screen, struggles to find his footing as Joel. He feels tonally out of sync with the ensemble cast, especially during an intense firefight where his delivery comes off as oddly detached and almost comedic. This might be due to Alex Garland’s attempt to inject some humour into an otherwise grim narrative, but it ultimately falls flat.

Wagner Moura in ‘Civil War’

One common criticism of the film is its portrayal of a delicate balance, teetering on the edge of political biases. It skillfully navigates without leaning towards any particular perspective, leaving viewers uncertain about the allegiances of characters caught in a chaotic civil war. Cleverly, it avoids delving into the backstory of what led the US to this crisis, focusing instead on the present turmoil and the individuals navigating through it.

Wagner Moura in ‘Civil War’

“Civil War” excels in its pacing; scenes move quickly, as one would assume in a movie called Civil War. For example, in a pivotal scene, actor Jesse Plemons makes a cameo as a soldier with uncertain allegiances. Wearing unsettling red sunglasses, Plemons’ character is a racist and xenophobic person who ultimately spirals into violence. His chilling portrayal propels the narrative and sets the stage for the film’s tense atmosphere, ultimately leading to its climactic ending.

Jessie Plemons in ‘Civil War’

As the movie ends, some people praise its exploration of journalism while staying politically astute, but others criticize its overall execution. But love it or hate it, “Civil War” serves as a stark reminder of the power of cinema to provoke, inspire, and ignite discourse long after the screen fades to black. 

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