Civil War (2024) Movie Review – You don’t wanna miss this!


You Don’t Wanna Miss This

Alex Garland’s latest movie, Civil War, is encapsulated in a line from the film: “You don’t wanna miss this.” The often traumatizing film illustrates the importance of bearing witness to horrors everyone would rather turn away from. It also posits that it’s our duty to pay attention.

A24’s most expensive feature to date is a brutally realistic look at a world that’s nearly our own. It does, though, feel specifically like an adjacent reality, and that adds to the film’s brilliance.

Civil War doesn’t get bogged down in direct statements about our current political climate. This film is not a tool one side of America’s political aisle can use against the other. It may leave too much about the war itself unexplained- for some. However, Civil War serves as a reminder that, once a violent conflict has started, the “whys” become secondary to the suffering.

In this film, there’s a purposeful struggle for balance between the intimate and the existential, the small moments and the larger conflict. This struggle is personified ingeniously through Lee (Kirsten Dunst). When faced with the existential nature of America’s collapse, Lee has a rocky, rational handle on herself. When it comes to personal trauma and loss, she’s got the strong heart of a soldier. However, when the two scales of devastation come crashing together, coping becomes much harder.

Kirsten Dunst delivers perhaps the best performance of her career. It’s complex and brilliant. The acting is expert across the board. Jesse Plemmons is absolutely heartstopping as a soldier, despite having very little screen time. Wagner Moura’s Joel toes the line between journalist and soldier with complete poise. Coming off of Priscilla, Cailee Spaeny has proven herself an actor to keep an eye on. Steven Mckinley shines as usual, and Nelson Lee delivers a powerful featured performance as well.

An absolute achievement

The sound design feels as much like a horror film as it does a war film. The gunshots, the intermittent silences when the graphic depictions of war freeze and a camera shutter clicks; it is scary and visually stunning. The combat is never meant to dazzle, only to disturb.

The images are at times, utterly graphic and horrifying. At other times, the cinematography communicates effectively and gorgeously in its own language. There are moments of quiet beauty, grotesque beauty, pure horror, and it even dares to be fun.

At just 1 hour and 49 minutes, the pace flows with deliciously jagged edges. It feels on the short end for a story of such epic proportions. However, the epic scale is not lost in the small, intimate moments on the road. It doesn’t feel short. Whether or not that’s a compliment depends on whether lurid, shocking violence should feel short.

Showing a war from the staunch perspective of journalists somehow makes the violence feel more shocking than in average war films. It’s as if, by separating the audience from the soldiers, the combat feels more chaotic, outside any conception of control.

Despite the violence meant to elicit a reaction, there are still grimacing examples of the need to avoid emotional reactions when confronted with true horror. The film is less concerned about casting judgment, and instead presents reactions of denial, making light, and rationalizing.

It’s hard to deny how easy it is to become indifferent towards distant global conflict. Civil War uses subtle decisions, such as when to start a song, to make sly statements about American apathy. Even the main characters struggle with contributing to the desensitization to violence and are flawed despite the film’s pervasive sense of reverence for journalism as a whole.

See it in theaters

This isn’t likely the type of film to be an award-show darling. Regardless, this is sure to measure up as one of the best films of the year. Despite being entirely fictional, it feels like one of the better war films ever made.

Garland did not shoot this using IMAX cameras. However, this is absolutely a movie you’ll want to see in a theater. Feel the sound, let the horror envelop your entire field of view. Show the film industry that the theater experience is not reserved for films that cost over $100 million to make. Let us know what you think! You don’t wanna miss this.

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  • Verdict - 10/10

1 thought on “Civil War (2024) Movie Review – You don’t wanna miss this!”

  1. Wow! Looking forward to all the sights and sounds of this film and losing myself in the storyline. Great review!!

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