Civil War

Civil War Movie Review

“Civil War” is a movie that will get people talking. That is what the Writer/Director hopes will happen. This country already had a ‘War Between the States’. Will the current events ever lead to an outcome shown in this movie? If it ever does, some people can say “Told you so”…


At some future point in this country, there is a massive and deadly conflict. The President (played by Nick Offerman) has declared himself in office for a third term.  The States of California and Texas have broken from the union, and they have created an entity called the ‘Western Forces’.


The Federal government, led by the President, has declared war on the WF, and he uses all the military might available to fight back. There is a similar break-away group from Florida, and the war rages on.


Reporters and photographers are covering all the violence and bloodshed in the streets. A long-time War photographer, named Lee (Played by Kirsten Dunst) is stationed in New York City. She works with a fellow reporter named Joel (played by Wagner Moura). They are covering a protest in the streets, when a suicide bomber causes a deadly explosion. Lee sees that a young woman is taking photos, just like her. She is Jessie (played by Cailee Spaeny), and she knows the background of her idol – Lee.


Lee and Joel know that the next big story will be in Washington DC. The WF troops are gathering in Charlottesville. There will be a final push into DC to depose the President. Joel wants to be the person who will last interview the President, and Lee wants to be on hand to document the final attack. They meet with an older print reporter named Sammy (played by Stephen McKinley Henderson).He wants to tag along to travel to DC. So does Jessie.


Lee is not happy about the extra passengers. Jessie is a total unknown, and Sammy is an older guy with health issues. There is no way that Lee and Joel can get to where they need to go, not with the additional people. Joel is willing to give these two others a ride, at least to Charlottesville. So, it is a road trip through the war-torn American countryside.


They stop to get gas at a station. The owners are fully armed, and they do not take kindly to strangers. But Lee offers to pay a huge sum for gas – $300. Oh, and it is in Canadian currency. Well, why didn’t you say so! Jessie wanders off and finds some people being strung up in a car wash. The locals say they are looters, and that is what happens to looters.


They get to an abandoned mall, one of many around the country. Lee is always having flashbacks about her time in prior war zones. And her memories are not pretty. Sammy is the voice of calm wisdom, and one in a while, Joel will listen to him. Jessie is willing to get herself into harm’s way to get a perfect image on camera. Lee chides Jessie to always wear her Press jacket, along with a flack jacket and a helmet.


At one point down the road, they are in a place that has a Christmas-themed ‘Winter Wonderland’. But there is a lone sniper in ranch house down a stretch. Two soldiers are pinned down behind some farm equipment. Soon Lee, Joel, Sammy and Jessie join them — also in range of the gunman. One of the soldiers is a master sharpshooter. After a while, the crew is freed up to go on their way.


They stay one night in a refugee camp set up by a Global Aid organization. Lee explains a little bit more of her past to Jessie. Joel wants to use the downtime to get drunk again. Sammy tries to temper Joel’s feelings of dread, but to no success. They move out the next day, and meet up with two other foreign journalists. Jessie trades off in another car with the other driver. But then when Joel, Lee and Sammy catch up to the other car — it is empty. Jessie and the other driver are nowhere to be found.


They follow a back road past an empty farm house. There is a military vehicle up ahead, along side a dump truck. There are two soldiers holding Jessie and the other journalist at gunpoint. Joel goes over to talk to them and explain they are all with the Press, and there is no reason to hold them hostage. Surely, these guys will listen to reason – right?


Lee also goes to see what is up, and the scene is horrific. One of the unidentified soldiers (played by Jesse Plemons) is in charge. There is a mass grave, and he does not want any nosy busy bodies getting involved. He just wants dead bodies. So he makes some more. Until a surprise helper rushes up to help get them out of trouble.


Lee and Joel and Jessie are able to make it to the Western Front camp staging area. There will be a full-on attack on Washington DC. The President must be taken down, that is their goal. The three journalists are ’embedded’ into some of the troops moving into the Capital City. The fire-fight will be fierce, and the results will be terrifying. The two sides have come to a point where the only way for the country to survive is for one of the sides to be destroyed.


But this may destroy the country in the long run, pitting the insurgent troops against the Federal forces. What will be left of the country will be only the shattered shreds of a long-gone democracy.


Earlier on in the trip, Lee makes the point to Jessie that because she is a professional — she will get the shot no matter what. “What if I get shot and killed?” asks Jessie, “Will you get that shot?” Lee replies, “What do you think?” In the end — Jessie is the one to get that shot…



“Civil War” is a horrific view of a potential future that has gone out of control. The movie shows a graphic portrayal of a Nation at War — at war with itself. The conflict is based on personal viewpoints that can never be reconciled. It is bloody and divisive. Perhaps it attempts to be a Cautionary Tale of a future that might come to pass. But the groundwork that it lays out is a bit sparse to think that this has a true basis in reality.


The technical aspects of this movie are superb, along with the acting. Kirsten Dunst, as Lee, is amazing – playing the battle-worn observer of brutal conflicts around the world. She is now seeing the same violence at her own doorstep. But she cannot feel any emotion; for fear that she would not be seen as a ‘professional’.


Cailee Spaeny, playing Jessie, also is fantastic. She is young and wet-behind-the ears, yet she is able to pull herself together to ride along with the seasoned pros. Wagner Moura (Joel) does fine job, as does Stephen McKinley Henderson (as Sammy). They are well cast in these roles.


Alex Garland has written and directed this movie with a lot of care and made it a potentially explosive talking point. The images and sounds are so realistic that it can make you shudder to think that this country might wind up like this. The choice to make the origins of this conflict vague might be the only downfall. It can definitely shake up any audience that watches the movie.


“Civil War” is a bleak look into a potential future where States rise up against one another. Of course, that has happened before in America. Anyone who forgets the past is doomed to repeat it…


Civil War

Written and Directed by: Alex Garland
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Cailee Spaeny, Wagner Moura, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Nick Offerman, Jesse Plemons
Cinematography: Rob Hardy
Edited by: Jake Roberts
Music by: Ben Salisbury, Geoff Barrow
Distributed by: A 24
Release date: April 12, 2024
Length: 109 minutes
MPAA rating: R for strong violent content, bloody/disturbing images, and language throughout
Genre: War Drama


Rating contributor: JMcNaughton tmc

I think movies need to be shared and enjoyed by as many people as possible! Going to a movie theater is a group experience, even if you go in there alone. When the lights go dark and movie begins, you can participate in a special kind of magic. You can be entertained, or enlightened. But you are never bored. Or at least, let's hope not. Try reading the reviews first.. maybe that will help!

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