Visceral portrayal of a chillingly plausible scenario

Kirsten Dunst stars in "Civil War." PHOTO: A24
Kirsten Dunst stars in "Civil War." PHOTO: A24
With a character-focused narrative at heart, Alex Garland’s latest science fiction tour de force powerfully marries A24’s indie sensibilities with the grandeur of a military epic.

On the frontlines of combat, Civil War (Reading, Rialto) follows a group of war correspondents racing across America’s fractured dystopia as rebel factions converge on the White House.

A truly discomforting experience, the film is viscerally upsetting with nauseating imagery that in its bleakest moments made me worry I might throw up in the theatre. True to the hallmark of an Alex Garland production, Civil War boasts colourfully arresting cinematography which, complemented by haunting sound design, perfectly underscores its agonising tone.

Tenderly asking us to consider our humanity, the film confronts the grim reality of American national violence, critiquing both the heightened tensions prevalent within the nation and the export of violence perpetrated by America elsewhere in the world. Drawing inspiration from Alfonso Cuaron’s seminal work, Children of MenCivil War derives much of its horror from the chilling plausibility of such a nightmarish scenario unfolding in America.

It excels in humanising the victims of this violence. Whether you believe that Texas and California could team up against the capital doesn’t matter; when you see a character get shot, your heart plummets, and you can’t help but think about the haunting parallels to real-world tragedies happening around us. The film’s photojournalist protagonists are integral to why this works. Much like the characters it portrays, Civil War refrains from writing the headlines, instead seeking to document the truth and leaving interpretation to the audience.


Director: Alex Garland
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura, Cailee Spaeny, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Soyona Mizuno, Nick Offerman, Jefferson White, Juani Feliz, Nelson Lee, Edmund Donovan 
Rating: (R16)