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Mounds View High School's student news site.

The Viewer

Mounds View High School's student news site.

The Viewer

Mounds View High School's student news site.

The Viewer

Bridging the past and present: Civil War

Due to unclear messages and a short run time, Civil War leaves viewers with many questions.
PHOTO+VIA+A24
PHOTO VIA A24

Verdict: 2/5

“Civil War” is a 2024 dystopian war film written and directed by Alex Garland. The film centers on a team of journalists traveling across the United States in the midst of a nationwide conflict involving an authoritarian government and several regional factions. The cast includes Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura, Cailee Spaeny, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Sonoya Mizuno and Nick Offerman.  

“Civil War” opens with a series of familiar images of American protests and war torn cities. Garland has clearly crafted this film as a response to the polarization of American society. The conflict is kept vague, and from everything I have read about the film, this seems to be by design. I understand the intricacies of the conflict is not a focus for Garland or his team, but it would certainly help my investment with the story if the actual conflict was more flushed out. It’s anyone’s guess if the central conflict is economic, social, or political, and that harms the quality of the story considerably. The messaging of the movie is pretty uncertain: Is it about how journalists view tragedy? Or is it only about the divisiveness of America? After seeing and enjoying both “Ex Machina” and “Annihilation” it is no surprise to me that Garland leaves the audience with more questions than they started with. 

Along with the unclear plot and vague message, the film is noticeably short. I believe a story like this deserves a larger scope, and it is not even two hours long. As a result, the action feels weightless, and it was more difficult for me to care about the characters and the situations they found themselves in. It was entertaining throughout, but that is because the pacing is lightning fast and sacrifices a lot of impactful moments in order to move to the next set piece. The production design of “Civil War” is occasionally very striking, with the destruction mostly appearing very real. Yet, there are a few set pieces that looked staged, and it took me out of the story. 

Kirsten Dunst has the standout performance of the film. She is the only one whose performance does not feel put-on or fake, and her quiet, reserved energy counters the abrasive energy of the film brilliantly. Dunst feels like the only consistent part of the film, as the tone fluctuates frequently between over-serious and depressing to light-hearted and shallow. I think that given the subject matter of the film, there should have been a clear vision for the tone beforehand, and it did not feel like there was. When I was sitting in the theater watching this, I felt like I was begging for Garland to come up with more bold images than what I was seeing. In terms of war-torn destruction, it does not hold a candle to “Saving Private Ryan” or “Apocalypse Now.” “Civil War” feels like a more digestible version of either one of those movies, and it feels painfully safe. The violence in this movie feels almost unnecessarily gratuitous because there was no political motivation behind any of it.

“Civil War” is certainly ambitious but often falls short of that ambition thanks to a lack of a clear vision. There are bright spots throughout, but it cannot save the film from feeling either aimless or misguided. It is certainly entertaining, but as the credits began to roll, others and I looked around in confusion and asked ourselves “what’s the point?”



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About the Contributor
William Overbo
William Overbo, Staff Reporter
Will is a senior staff reporter, and this year is his first year on The Viewer. Awards: Best of SNO - The downfall of ELA education
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