Thu. May 23rd, 2024

Review: Civil War

The basic idea with Alex Garland’s Civil War is it’s some time in the future and some of the US States, especially California and Texas, have broken away from the rest of the country resulting in a Civil War. It stars Kirsten Dunst as a photojournalist on a quest to travel from New York to Washington DC to witness and hopefully interview the President before he is deposed or assassinated. That’s the basic McGuffin of the story, but it’s really there to give us a glimpse of an America under the heal of civil war. And boy do we see it!

An interesting aspect of the story is that a lot of what Dunst and her journalist pals see is straight out of the Middle East conflict playbook, just transplanted to the US. Cities reduced to rubble, refugees moving along roads, gunmen on roofs, suicide bombers rushing in with American flags to blow up ‘the enemy’. All the gun maniacs come out of the woodwork, and the White House is stormed by troopers and our journos in a deliriously crazy as batshit finale, which I loved. It certainly gives one pause for thought.

I’m not sure how much sense we’re supposed to make of all this though. I think one of Garland’s ideas is that wars don’t make sense. We don’t even know why the war started, and we certainly don’t know whose side to be on. Even the fact that Dunst’s photojournalist uses a digital camera to record what she experiences, while a younger protege, played by Cailee Spaeny, uses a film camera, complete with developing tank (hey, I used to have one of those!) lacks sense. Is the Cailee character expecting things to get so bad there’ll be no electricity at some point? Looking for practicalities in this film is pointless. Personally, I doubt very much whether journalists will keep doing their job when the shit hits the fan. They’ll have no one to present their reportage to, for starters. I suspect gung ho journos like we see in this film almost only ever exist in Hollywood. And doesn’t the White House have bunkers and escape tunnels out of there and shit? Isn’t there a helipad on the roof?

No, I think this film is a warning, or a presentiment, of things to come if the American people and the American system don’t get their act together. Garland seems to be pointing to the possible re-election of a certain crazy as batshit ex-President. Which, when you think about it, is a pretty interesting reason for a film to exist.