Home NEWS Arts ScreenShots: “Civil War”

ScreenShots: “Civil War”


There has been quite a bit of buzz building ahead of the release of Alex Garland’s “Civil War” – expected to take theaters by storm on April 12.

The movie attracted our attention for various reasons: a lot of casual talk about, well, an actual civil war in this country; the fact that journalists serve as its protagonists and prime story tellers; and that Garland’s past work (28 Days Later, Ex Machina) has proven entertaining in the past.

To be clear – like most of America we’ve yet to actually see the movie. As a result, we must confine ourselves to discussion of some known story arcs and its overall premise, and say that we do intend to see it as soon as the lines diminish.

Garland’s decision to build his movie around four journalists of various ages, skill sets and ethnicity was odd for some – the director admitting many challenged the decision, critics saying journalists are neither liked nor trusted in this country, Garland responding by saying that was why he chose them as characters to tell his story.

“There is something in the film which is trying to be protective of (journalists),” he told an interviewer. “I think serious journalism needs protecting, because it’s under attack, so I wanted to make those people ‘heroes’ to put them front and center.”

We’ll see how that works. Journalists make natural narrators, tend to move a story along, and are easy to kill off in most fictional settings because of their/our unpopularity. Garland’s affection for them/us may stem from the fact that his father was a newspaper cartoonist and colleague of the trench-coated, “Fleet Street” foreign correspondents who prowled London in his youth.

In the movie, Kirsten Dunst slings her Nikons like bandoleers as Lee, a seen-it-all photojournalist who leads a squad of war correspondents on a road trip from New York to the embattled nation’s capital. We’re not told who fired the Fort Sumter first shot or why but America’s armored might is on full display, with battle tanks rolling down 5th Avenue and heavily armed militias manning roadblocks and checkpoints.

Travel is perilous. The wrong answer at the wrong time can earn you a trip to the gibbet. It’s impossible to know who’s in charge at any given moment.

Rounding out Lee’s journalistic Rat Patrol is South American-born reporter Joel (Wagner Moura) and Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson), a veteran scribbler who writes for “what’s left of the New York Times.” Sammy is a trusted veteran but he’s slowing down, the others worrying about him as he hobbles along while they duck and dodge, covering civil protests and full-on battles.

The group gets a fourth for bridge when Jessie (Cailee Spaeny) charms Joel and ends up joining the trio as they drive on to Washington, D.C. in hopes of interviewing the president (Nick Offerman) before he surrenders to the military forces of something called the WA, or Western Alliance. The WA, quirkily until you think about it a little, consists of militias from California and Texas with help from Florida, which is apparently a different separatist group that shares the WA’s values.

With its projected $50 million budget, Civil War is the most expensive film ever made by indie production house A24, well beyond funding allotted for Garland’s other films. Those who have seen it say the big budget carries through onto the screen – with Garland creating a recognizable, some might say utterly believable dystopian landscape of a once-great nation fighting for its life and tearing itself apart in the process.

It remains to be seen – literally – if Civil War joins others of its genre we have found especially prescient and forward thinking, such as Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men.

We should know, along with everyone else, when the film opens in a few more days.


  1. A premise that’s highly unlikely to ever happen, let’s hope not. But, large local unrest, more likely, better to do a little preparation.

    Firestone 11R

  2. Re: Civil War. What is it? The title per CNN today: “Israeli settlers storm West Bank village, setting cars and homes ablaze”. Now, “settlers” is an interesting turn of phrase here for pillaging and fanaticism. That’s not corn or barley they are settling with, is it? It’s dispossession and occupation.

    I have to agree with Telling the Truth, that a nation of very complacent (unreflective) Americans, with the highest-performing economy in the world and high consumer confidence, are not going to shoot themselves in their collective feet by rallying to the fanatical fringe in support of lies revealed anew in the light of every new day.

  3. Don’t wear your press credentials. Guy at my showing yelled “Good. Now shoot the other one” whenever they killed a reporter.

  4. Afraid a certain disgraced former president hung a target on the media’s back, or made it okay to do so. Afraid it is going to be a while before that scar is healed.

  5. I have been searching for “all hell will break loose”, “Gates of Hell”, and “MASSIVE protests”, but I get nothing. Yet, I know that the crowds must have been bigger than anyone has ever seen. Bigly crowds! Is it possible for MASSIVE protests to happen and simultaneously not be observed? I must not be getting all of the Alternative Facts.

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