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Alex Garland's Civil War: His Final Directorial Venture

Updated: May 13


Reading Noam Chomsky's opinions about US economic policy and growth strategy helped me view Alex Garland's Civil War more objectively. Considering Alex Garland's current work as an activist, and the movie itself, I'm sure Chomsky would approve.


Garland has said outrightly that this will be his last movie as a director and as such you might expect a masterpiece. I would suggest you lower your expectations to enjoy this movie better.


The Plot of Alex Garland's Civil War


After the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing recession in the US, and the El Nino effect turning the city I live in into a makeshift desert, Alex Garland's Civil War seems like another day in paradise. But after watching a few minutes of the movie you do get into it.


Washington city skyline

The movie is about a journalist's journey in what seems like present-day America to reach a President who is fighting off secessionist forces. A trio of journalists and a writer race against time to get a quote from the US President before a rumored assassination by the secessionist forces.


Abandoned cars in Civil War movie 2024

The twist in this dystopian tale is the young Joel who tags along with the veteran journalists Jessie and Lee. On the road to the perfect quote, Joel sees things that force her to grow up in an environment where naivety is a liability.




Cast


I only ever knew Kirsten Dunst from her appearances in the Sam Raimi Spiderman Franchise and her brilliant role as a child vampire in 'Interview with a Vampire.'


Seeing her in this deglammed role is quite a treat watching her flex those dramatic acting muscles. I was also surprised to find that Jesse Plemons was her husband and that he had a small role in this movie.



Great performances all around in this movie by everyone from Wagner Moura and Cailee Spaeny as Joel and Jessie the journalists to Stephen McKinley Henderson as Sammy the writer.

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I was bitterly disappointed by Nick Offerman's lack of screen time as the President in this movie, considering he was born to play such a role. But he does an amazing job with the time he is given to be on screen. It was hard for me not to visualize him as a Mentat.



There have been hints of the Dystopia predicted by Civil War, with Republican representatives in the US wanting a division between Red (Republican) and Blue (Democratic) States. This concept sounds like a pretty big oxymoron of the term United States.


But the current situation is not even close to what is shown on screen. Which I guess is a good thing.


At the end of the day, I feel they did come up a little short in terms of plot but the masterful performances of all the seasoned actors carry you through till the end.



Cinematography


Alex Garland's Civil War uses visuals more than anything to convey feelings of dystopia, disillusionment, and sheer chaos.


Some shots are done well, such as the scene with the TV screen showing the secessionist US state reflected on a window peering into the violence around Dunst in real-time. In her mind the difference between what she wants the world to be and its reality is shown clearly in this shot.

Brilliant visuals in Alex Garland's Civil War movie

The confrontation between the journalist entourage and the Western Forces has a few great shots with Jesse Plemon doing what he does best on-screen- intimidate and be menacing. Although I'm sure he's a great guy in real life as attested by his wife Kirsten Dunst and Seth Meyers on the Seth Meyers show.


Jesse Plemons almost killing all the journalists

The violence is not gratuitous here even though Garland had many reasons to get carried away with it. He has used scenes of gunbattle, general frustration, and military strategy judiciously while focusing on the message he wants to convey.


Jessie screaming in frustration


What is the message you say? according to me, he has purposefully and skillfully buried the point he is trying to make in layers of subtle exposition. The point is this - war usually is pointless, and the common man is the one most affected and is typically clueless about why it's happening.



If you look into the major geo-political conflicts happening across the globe currently, Alex Garland's point is made abundantly clear.


Long shot of a military base in Civil War

Beyond a few rare shots and standard long shots, the cinematography isn't Oscar-worthy per se. But Alex Garland's is a good movie for people who are tuned into global geopolitics and its implications.



Should You Watch This? Yes!


This movie is not particularly focused on entertainment, rather it is geared towards provoking informed opinion of global events. If you view this with the lens of the director's intent, you will most likely enjoy watching it, leaving you to think about things around you long after the movie has ended.


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