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Linden’s Cut: ‘Civil War’ Review


“Civil War” had me excited for many reasons. For one, it’s made by film studio A24, which has made a list of terrific films ranging from “The Lighthouse” to “Moonlight” to “Everything Everywhere All At Once” to “The Iron Claw.” Another is the stacked cast, which included a range of actors, from Kirsten Dunst to Stephen McKinley Henderson to Cailee Spaeny. It was also curious to see that the film’s director, Alex Garland, stated in The Wrap that in an interview with The Guardian, he is stepping down from directing after this film to focus on writing. While I haven’t seen Garland’s previous films it made me interested in this one even more. Having seen it, not only is this one of the best A24 films but if this is truly Garland’s last film, he went out on a hard-hitting bang.

“Civil War” is directed by Garland (“Ex Machina,” “Annihilation,” “Men”) and stars Dunst (“The Power of the Dog” “Spider-Man Trilogy”), McKinley Henderson (“Dune,” “Beau Is Afraid”), Wagner Moura (“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” “Narcos,” Narcos: Mexico”) and Spaeny (“Priscilla”) as a team of journalists who travel from New York City to Washington D.C. during a civil war that has taken over all of America.

What I loved about this film was that it focuses on the journalists instead of the soldiers. Not only is this perspective refreshing, but it makes it much more terrifying and thrilling. As these journalists are photographing and reporting on war events you feel like you’re on the journey with them. Not only that, but the stakes are so high because anytime these journalists are doing their jobs, they are risking their lives.

The performances are terrific but the main standout is Spaeny as Jessie. The situations Jessie is found in are so suspenseful and terrifying particularly with a scene involving a chilling Jesse Plemons (Kirsten Dunst’s real life husband) where I really did not know what was going to happen next. Her subtle reactions made it far more thrilling, and scary to watch. It’s not a long scene but it’s one of the highlights in this film. 

Another standout is Dunst as Lee, a veteran war photographer who is on the journey with these journalists and builds a friendship with Jessie along the way. Lee is such a compelling character because, as a war photographer, her work has taken an emotional toll on her. This is particularly visible in a scene where she is alone in a bathtub and the film uses silent flashbacks to show all of the horrific events she has witnessed throughout the years.

Some of the best moments in the film are the conversations the journalists have, particularly one involving Jessie talking to Lee, who she has looked up to.

The film does an incredible job of not picking sides, rather focusing on the journalists doing their jobs while risking life and limb any and every time they do so. In the third act, I really did not know if the characters were going to survive and that left me on the edge of my seat.

As for issues, because the film is so well paced I would’ve wanted to see an extra 20-30 minutes. I would’ve also wanted to see the president, played by Nick Offerman, to have more screen time. He plays an important part in the film, yet he is only seen in the film for about five minutes. 

Overall, “Civil War” is a thrilling experience from start to finish that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats until the credits roll. If you are a fan of A24, the cast, the director or you are just into war movies in general go, buy a ticket for this film. You will not be disappointed. “Civil War” earns an A-.

Commentary writer Linden Lansberry can be reached at [email protected].

If you would like to submit a reaction to a piece, Letter to the Editor or other submission, please send it to commentary editor Price Wilborn at [email protected] or [email protected].

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