‘Civil War’ Review: We Have Met the Enemy and It Is Us. Again. (2024)



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Critic’s Pick

In Alex Garland’s tough new movie, a group of journalists led by Kirsten Dunst, as a photographer, travels a United States at war with itself.









‘Civil War’ | Anatomy of a Scene

The writer and director Alex Garland narrates a sequence from his film.

“My name is Alex Garland and I’m the writer director of ‘Civil War’. So this particular clip is roughly around the halfway point of the movie and it’s these four journalists and they’re trying to get, in a very circuitous route, from New York to DC, and encountering various obstacles on the way. And this is one of those obstacles. What they find themselves stuck in is a battle between two snipers. And they are close to one of the snipers and the other sniper is somewhere unseen, but presumably in a large house that sits over a field and a hill. It’s a surrealist exchange and it’s surrounded by some very surrealist imagery, which is they’re, in broad daylight in broad sunshine, there’s no indication that we’re anywhere near winter in the filming. In fact, you can kind of tell it’s summer. But they’re surrounded by Christmas decorations. And in some ways, the Christmas decorations speak of a country, which is in disrepair, however silly it sounds. If you haven’t put away your Christmas decorations, clearly something isn’t going right.” “What’s going on?” “Someone in that house, they’re stuck. We’re stuck.” “And there’s a bit of imagery. It felt like it hit the right note. But the interesting thing about that imagery was that it was not production designed. We didn’t create it. We actually literally found it. We were driving along and we saw all of these Christmas decorations, basically exactly as they are in the film. They were about 100 yards away, just piled up by the side of the road. And it turned out, it was a guy who’d put on a winter wonderland festival. People had not dug his winter wonderland festival, and he’d gone bankrupt. And he had decided just to leave everything just strewn around on a farmer’s field, who was then absolutely furious. So in a way, there’s a loose parallel, which is the same implication that exists within the film exists within real life.” “You don’t understand a word I say. Yo. What’s over there in that house?” “Someone shooting.” “It’s to do with the fact that when things get extreme, the reasons why things got extreme no longer become relevant and the knife edge of the problem is all that really remains relevant. So it doesn’t actually matter, as it were, in this context, what side they’re fighting for or what the other person’s fighting for. It’s just reduced to a survival.”

‘Civil War’ Review: We Have Met the Enemy and It Is Us. Again. (1)

By Manohla Dargis

Civil War
NYT Critic’s Pick
Directed by Alex Garland
Action, Thriller
1h 49m

A blunt, gut-twisting work of speculative fiction, “Civil War” opens with the United States at war with itself — literally, not just rhetorically. In Washington, D.C., the president is holed up in the White House; in a spookily depopulated New York, desperate people wait for water rations. It’s the near-future, and rooftop snipers, suicide bombers and wild-eyed randos are in the fight while an opposition faction with a two-star flag called the Western Forces, comprising Texas and California — as I said, this is speculative fiction — is leading the charge against what remains of the federal government. If you’re feeling triggered, you aren’t alone.

It’s mourning again in America, and it’s mesmerizingly, horribly gripping. Filled with bullets, consuming fires and terrific actors like Kirsten Dunst running for cover, the movie is a what-if nightmare stoked by memories of Jan. 6. As in what if the visions of some rioters had been realized, what if the nation was again broken by Civil War, what if the democratic experiment called America had come undone? If that sounds harrowing, you’re right. It’s one thing when a movie taps into childish fears with monsters under the bed; you’re eager to see what happens because you know how it will end (until the sequel). Adult fears are another matter.

In “Civil War,” the British filmmaker Alex Garland explores the unbearable if not the unthinkable, something he likes to do. A pop cultural savant, he made a splashy zeitgeist-ready debut with his 1996 best seller “The Beach,” a novel about a paradise that proves deadly, an evergreen metaphor for life and the basis for a silly film. That things in the world are not what they seem, and are often far worse, is a theme that Garland has continued pursuing in other dark fantasies, first as a screenwriter (“28 Days Later”), and then as a writer-director (“Ex Machina”). His résumé is populated with zombies, clones and aliens, though reliably it is his outwardly ordinary characters you need to keep a closer watch on.

By the time “Civil War” opens, the fight has been raging for an undisclosed period yet long enough to have hollowed out cities and people’s faces alike. It’s unclear as to why the war started or who fired the first shot. Garland does scatter some hints; in one ugly scene, a militia type played by a jolting, scarily effective Jesse Plemons asks captives “what kind of American” they are. Yet whatever divisions preceded the conflict are left to your imagination, at least partly because Garland assumes you’ve been paying attention to recent events. Instead, he presents an outwardly and largely post-ideological landscape in which debates over policies, politics and American exceptionalism have been rendered moot by war.


‘Civil War’ Review: We Have Met the Enemy and It Is Us. Again. (4)

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‘Civil War’ Review: We Have Met the Enemy and It Is Us. Again. (2024)


What is the 2024 movie Civil War about? ›

Is Civil War a liberal movie? ›

The film has no grounding in such partisan politics. The sides are unclear and the ideology — a “Western Alliance” of secessionists from California and Texas — is impossible to imagine given the stark partisan divides between the states.

Why is Civil War 2024 rated R? ›

Join us at The Nick for a gripping cinematic experience that explores the consequences of societal collapse and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity. 2024. 109 min. Rated R for strong violent content, bloody/disturbing images, and language throughout.

What is the story of the Civil War A24? ›

Civil War is a 2024 dystopian thriller film written and directed by Alex Garland. It follows a team of journalists traveling across the United States during a civil war fought between an authoritarian federal government and several regional factions.

Is the new Civil War movie coming out in 2024? ›

Kirsten Dunst in "Civil War." Civil War will eventually be available to stream Max, but the release date has not yet been announced. The film's production company, A24, signed a deal with Warner Bros. Discovery in December to bring its theatrical films to the streaming site in 2024.

Where can I stream Civil War 2024? ›

But there's also now an option to watch the film at home. As of November 25, 2024, Civil War is available on HBO Max.

Is Iron Man wrong in Civil War? ›

Summary. Iron Man was right in Civil War about the Sokovia Accords - his fear of a threat like Thanos was proven in Infinity War. Not addressing the Sokovia Accords creates problems for the multiverse Avengers in Phase 5 of the MCU.

Is Civil War a good movie? ›

Tough and unsettling by design, Civil War is a gripping close-up look at the violent uncertainty of life in a nation in crisis. Civil War does a good job of putting the viewer on the ground, although it'll be frustrating for anyone hoping to get any clues as to what caused the conflict in the first place.

Why is Civil War not an Avengers movie? ›

The movie features so many of the MCU's heroes that fans have been understandably confused and sometimes even upset that it didn't get the Avengers treatment. The movie lacked appearances from Hulk and Thor, two of the MCU's core Avengers, which is likely why it got the Cap' tag instead.

How old was too old for Civil War? ›

Most of the Union Army was made up of young white men born in North America. Although soldiers generally ranged in age from 18 to 45, boys as young as 12 often served as cavalry buglers or drummer boys, and some men in their fifties and sixties enlisted as privates.

Did 15 year olds fight in the Civil War? ›

Throughout the American Civil War, approximately 250,000–420,000 males under the age of 18 were involved in both Union and Confederate forces. It is estimated that 100,000 Union soldiers were 15 years of age or younger.

Did 13 year olds fight in the Civil War? ›

Although soldiers were officially supposed to be at least 18 years old, both sides needed soldiers and were willing to look the other way when it came to age. As a result thousands of young boys between the ages of 13 and 17 fought in the Civil War. Many of these boys were killed or wounded in battle.

Who won the whole Civil War? ›

The Union (also known as the North) won the American Civil War. The main reasons for the Union's victory were its superior resources (including manpower), transportation, and industrial capacity, as well as the effective leadership of President Abraham Lincoln and the military strategies of General Ulysses S. Grant.

Who is A24 owned by? ›

A24 is an American independent film and television company founded in August 20, 2012 by Daniel Katz, David Fenkel, and John Hodges.

Why did Irish fight in American Civil War? ›

More than 150,000 Irishmen, most of whom were recent immigrants and many of whom were not yet U.S. citizens, joined the Union Army during the Civil War. Some joined out of loyalty to their new home. Others hoped that such a conspicuous display of patriotism might put a stop to anti-Irish discrimination.

Where can I watch the Civil War movie 2024 on Netflix? ›

At the end of 2023, 20th Century Studios' films will head to Hulu or Disney+ once they leave theaters. Netflix: Civil War is currently not available on Netflix.

What does Tony Stark want in Civil War? ›

Indeed, this was one of the main reasons why Iron Man was actually for the Sokovia Accords in Captain America: Civil War: he wanted to keep the Avengers operating in preparation for what was to come. Tony was never fully on board with relinquishing all control to the U.N.

Is the Civil War movie good or bad? ›

It's just a very well done war movie, with bad guys and good guys, and they can be from either side of the political spectrum. I found it pretty, well-shot and production design is great as well. But I found it hollow, without the detail that I would have liked to have seen about the two sides.

What happened at the end of Civil War movie? ›

After Lee's death, the film carries on until the ultimate denouement of the president being gunned down by rebellion soldiers. The credits roll on top of a black-and-white photo of a group of Western Forces soldiers smiling as they stand next to the dead president. It was a shot presumably caught by Jessie.

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