Ah the ol’ American war movie.

Gratuitous violence all packaged up in a patriotic shell for Americans to watch and feel good about how they saved the world from Nazis or communism.

A clash of good vs evil where the US of A saves the da… Hmm what’s that? This movie is about the USA fighting itself and not a foreign power?

OK… well.

Bet they couldn’t resist the classic red blooded American white dude who’s about 50% testosterone by volume and 50% bald eagle…

Civil War - 2024

Huh? The protagonist is a female journalist who doesn’t so much as touch a firearm the entire movie?

OK… Alex Garland, what are you up to?

Kirsten Dunst is Lee, a veteran war photographer who has captured horrors in battlefields overseas only to find herself doing the same in her own backyard. She is joined by her colleague Joel, played by Wagner Moura; a starry eyed photographer who worships her as a hero named Jessie, played by Cailee Spaeny; and Sammy, a much older mentor acting as the soul of the group played by Stephen McKinley Henderson.

Civil War - 2024

The four of them are journalists, driving their press vehicle to the nation’s capital in a dangerous attempt to interview the President of the United States before Washington falls to the forces closing in on it.

If you want a wider view of the conflict, you aren’t going to find it.

There are titbits and snippets, hints at what’s going on across the country. But there are no cutaway scenes showing that New York is now under the control of the empire of McDonalds.

The entire film follows these four journalists and the only info we have is what they happen across while they make their way across the country.

And it’s not a pretty picture.

Civil War - 2024

Even expecting it, the horror the movie contains seems to creep up on you. Maybe it’s because we have uniquely vulnerable protagonists, protected by the veneer of civility owed to their status as agents of the media and not much else.

It’s not Rambo seeing those bodies, it’s not G.I Joe making his way across this violent battlefield, it’s a woman with a camera and some flimsy body armour.

The American war movie has led to certain expectations within me over time. It involves a very mythic depiction of battle. Even movies that profess to be darker and grittier where the scarred protagonist dies at the end still manage to be fundamentally about the heroism of the brave soldiers who fight for freedom.

But Civil War sidesteps most of this in one very simple step.

This is not the USA vs the word, it’s the USA vs itself.

Our protagonists are here as a neutral party, on a mission to document events. On either side of the conflict are forces any modern viewer, American or not, would simply recognise as American soldiers and secret service.

I am not American.

I feel the need to state that somewhere in here, because this film is going to mean something more to someone who is, but even I can see the confrontational nature of the movie. This is a film showing brother killing brother. It is, at times, intensely uncomfortable to watch; but from start to finish it captivates.

My expectations were ripe for an exploration of a complex political situation extrapolated from the current state of America. A depiction of a near future where the visible faultlines of today have split and the sides people argue on now have become the factions of a brutal war.

Instead, I got a soul shaking narrative about the horrors of war from the point of view of those who wilfully walk through the middle of it to capture it on film.

There’s no Trumpists vs the Woke Left here. If you haven’t looked up the Wikipedia page, you won’t even be entirely clear on where the lines are or who exactly is winning.

This isn’t a condemnation of any currently extant ideology in the states, it’s a dire warning of what the future could hold if the nation doesn’t pull itself together.

Ultimately, Civil War took me by surprise.

An evocative movie that takes a step back and points to where the USA could be heading in the future if it doesn’t course correct.

Captivating from start to finish, this is one that is going to shake people.

Civil War - 2024
Civil War (A24 – 2024) Review

Year: 2024
Rating: R18+
Running Time: 109 MIN
Genre: Action
Director: Alex Garland
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Cailee Spaeny, Wagner Moura, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Nick Offerman
Production Studio: DNA Films
Distributor: A24

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