Tuesday 7 May 2024

Civil War review

Civil War movie poster

I quite enjoyed it. 


As much as you can 'enjoy' a such harrowing film. 

It focuses on a group of journalists travelling to interview a third-term President (who has obviously chucking out term limits) before 'The Western Powers' of California and Texas topple him. 

It doesn't go into the causes of the conflict. It doesn't spend a lot of time with the families of the journalists.

It doesn't have to.

It's a road trip through hell, told over a couple of days. It gives, for my money, just enough detail about the characters to keep us engaged. How much would I expect to know a person after a short road trip? These are not simple archetypes spouting glib one-liners. They feel more nuanced.

Could they have discussed more personal things? Talked about their childhoods and their dysfunctional families, their personal politics and values, messy relationship history and favourite TV shows? Sure. But it might also have added bloat to a very pared down screenplay.

The cast is all excellent. There was nothing that took me out of the film, although it slumps a little in the middle act (a common problem with a lot of films) but then barrels to a very kinetic ending. 

The main cast is tight, a mere four characters

The journey in Civil War is the thing: not just the physical one to Washington, D.C, but the personal. The young, aspiring war photographer matures over the course of the film under the wing of a cynical old one. They helpfully have her presentation and wardrobe change over the course of the film, in case we missed the point. 

That worked for me. 

The other half is a bit like Heart of Darkness or Apocalypse Now as they travel through an increasingly bizarre and nightmarish America at war with itself. Here Alex Garland could have gone even further, but then, he may not have wanted to make something as surreal as Apocalypse

Meaningless destruction and suffering, whatever the cause(s) of the civil war, is the point. That, in my opinion, is why the causes are not elaborated upon. You could also argue that there are a few so-called 'dog whistles' embedded in the script that give you some hints. 

Ultimately, it's open enough for viewers to read what they want into it. 

To me, the film is a powerful warning of what NOT to do. 

The cost of a second American Civil War would be enormous, and Xi and Putin salivate at the thought of it. Foreign troll farms deliberately try to escalate arguments online and sow division with disinformation and incendiary material, with the ultimate goal of turning Americans against themselves. 

Let's hope America does not fall for it.

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