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Civil War

Civil War

We've seen and reviewed the Ex Machina director's latest - and perhaps last - blockbuster.

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A terrible civil war has torn apart the United States. The details are unclear, other than that the unexpected alliance of California and Texas has declared war on Washington D.C., but one thing is clear to war photographer Lee Smith: she wants answers from the controversial President of the United States (Nick Offerman), a power-hungry man who has locked himself in the White House and led to America's bloody situation. Smith (Kirsten Dunst) is joined by journalist Joel (Narcos star Wagner Moura), veteran journalist Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson), and newcomer Jessie (Cailee Spaeny), a young amateur autographer who's tired of twiddling her thumbs in safe Missouri and decides to follow in the footsteps of her idol Smith.

Civil War is like a modern-day Apocalypse Now; it's a dark, timely look at the futility and misery of war. The political causes and consequences are unimportant as we follow the journalists to the dying heart of Washington, because it could have been triggered for any reason. Garland avoids taking sides here or spoon-feeding answers to the audience, which builds an extremely uncertain and insecure atmosphere throughout the film. Garland's work is almost documentary-like as he explores the continuous violence that eats up each state, and it's chillingly beautiful how the characters' black-and-white photographs flash through the intense action sequences to cut through the adrenaline.

Dunst is brilliant as a war-scarred photographer, capturing the memory of all the victims and misery she has ever documented with her camera lens. Dunst feels incredibly real and believable as a spectator who mostly just stands in the background to document hell, but who also feels every little horror shoot through her like bullets - no matter how much she keeps her head down. However, it is Spaeny who becomes the real star of the film, throwing herself into a situation that neither she nor the viewer really understands. All we understand through her is that there must be some kind of logic behind the rawness and brutality, but of course there never is.

Civil War
Kirsten Dunst is excellent as a war-scarred photographer who begins to wonder about her role as a spectator in a politically fraught landscape.
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Once you reach Washington D.C. for the film's explosive finale, the film leaves the viewer with a devastatingly hollow sense of emptiness, which is both good and bad. Not much changes or develops throughout the story, which mostly offers the viewer one dystopian vision after another, and for the viewer who was expecting a bit more political bite, the film may feel a bit disappointing. On the other hand, the coldly detached narrative style really works, where Garland, like the journalists, does not twist the meaning of the civil war. Like a photograph, a picture is worth a thousand words, and Garland succeeds here. The dialogue, however, is not quite up to par. It is often clumsy and lazily delivered when it comes to dumping exposition on the world situation, which often becomes uninteresting in the long run. The film is at its best when it's quiet, cold, and focused on the peace between the deafening shots.

Dunst's character expresses her hope that her pictures will be a kind of warning to the public, a future window into a suffering that can be avoided if we just stop and solve the problems before they get out of hand. The same can be said of Civil War in general, where Garland's refreshingly apolitically stance evokes a photograph of a modern society that could collapse at any moment. Given what's going on in the world right now, it's often scary to see the sadness of an alternative America - especially in the polarised state we're in right now. It also helps that the sound and photography is hair-raisingly bombastic and realistic, to really remind the audience that you can't cover your ears and close your eyes at the same time.

In other words, Civil War is an effective anti-war film that manages to be evocative, dystopian and brutal in its documentary style. It's a well-crafted war thriller about the immense responsibility of the journalist in an irresponsible landscape that, like its protagonist, will stick in your mind. Often reminiscent of Children of Men in its ambition, message and highly memorable music choices, it would be downright tragic if this really is Alex Garland's last film. At least he can be happy that he ended his career with his flag flying high - a flag made up of gunpowder, blood and bullet holes.

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08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
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Civil War

Civil War

MOVIE REVIEW. Written by André Lamartine

We've seen and reviewed the Ex Machina director's latest - and perhaps last - blockbuster.



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