Civil War (2024) Review- The Best and Worst of Humanity



Filmmaker and writer Alex Garland released his newest film, Civil War, this weekend with A24. Garland has made movies such as Ex Machina, Annihilation, Men, and the Hulu miniseries, Devs. He’s quickly become a favorite indie auteur in the likes of Robert Eggers and Ari Aster, and is one of my personal favorite filmmakers at the moment. Then it was announced he’d be directing and writing Civil War. At first I was excited because, hey, new film by a great artist. Then came a slight hesitation winced over me with the ongoing tension escalation of political division here in America. 

    So I watched the film Friday, and if you’re one of those people that too think, “Yikes, I’m really not in the mood for a movie about politics,” then you’re in luck because Civil War is not one of those films. 

    Instead, the film takes an interesting approach and instead focuses on war journalism and follows photographers trying to get to Washington D.C in the midst of a Second Civil War in the U.S as the country is divided into several factions such as The Western Forces (an alliance of California and Texas), the Florida Alliance, and the Loyalist States. Although you see soldiers and civilians killing each other, the audience is never told why the country separated in the first place. Because we weren’t meant to. It doesn’t matter what the issues were because all that war journalists see is the mundane senseless violence that comes with war. 

     I very much love this approach, because you can really blanket this plot to any country and would still be applicable. I believe it’s just set in the U.S because we as a nation are such a colossus in comparison to other countries and that we will affect every country if we fall, and we have not experienced war in our own country in more than 160 years. 

    What I love about the movie is that it’s a road film with a war backdrop. I hesitate to say spectacle because war is painted horrifically, as it should. In quiet, warm moments of the film between characters as they travel a war torn America, there are sudden interruptions of violence and bloody confrontation as we’re reminded that these journalists’ jobs are very dangerous as they snap pictures in its full grimace and its raw depiction of how savage battlefields are. It’s shows the best and worst of humanity and is truly anti-war at its finest. 

    The violence is mundane. Like the loss of human life doesn’t matter and gives zero cinematic narrative attention to each soldier that dies. This isn’t Saving Private Ryan by any means, it’s more comparable to, say, Come and See and Children of Men. These soldiers don’t give warning shots, they shot to kill, and approach trading fire in the vein of playing a card game to pass the time. When someone dies, loved ones cry over them as soldiers ignore them and continue on, because you don’t have time to stop and mourn the dead. 

    I admire what the creatives here did with this movie. Of course with director Alex Garland but also the cinematography is gorgeous, the sound design is quite exceptional, the acting is terrific, and the soundtrack is great as always. I’d really recommend this movie, and although the year is still quite early, this is a forerunner to a Best Picture winner for me. Check it out, but be civil to each other because civility doesn’t exist in war. 


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