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FoCC Review: Civil War – A Battle for the Ages

By Jason Delgado

Filmmaker Alex Garland’s new movie Civil War is one that will make viewers think, and that’s a good thing. After my showing, I saw groups of people huddled together to discuss what they had just seen. Is this film a masterpiece? Only time will tell. If nothing else, it is hauntingly engaging, tense, and thought-provoking.

The story follows a group of press journalists who are traveling across the war zone that America has become, led by Kirsten Dunst as grizzled veteran reporter Lee, Wagner Moura as the gung-ho Joel, Stephen McKinley Henderson as the wise-old pro Sammy, and Cailee Spaeny as the young and eager to learn Jessie. Lee and Joel are determined to get the interview of the century from the divisive President (Nick Offerman) in Washington D.C., before the Capitol is stormed by troops, while Sammy and Jessie are just happy to come along for the ride.

The film starts out slow-paced, but once it gets going, it is frighteningly realistic and gripping. There are scenes involving torture and murder, so this movie is not for the weak of heart. One particular scene featuring Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad) is so intense that it was silent enough to hear a pin drop in my theater; the audience was completely captivated by his on-screen mastery at work. This is something that will stay with viewers long after the movie is over.

Less than a decade ago, a movie like this would have seemed too implausible. Sadly, events such as the experiences of January 6th and the BLM riots have made this scenario all too realistic. I have seen some people online say that a movie like this should not be made because it is too close to actually happening. I disagree with the previous sentiment wholeheartedly, because film should push the boundaries and make audiences contemplate society and life. A show such as the iconic Twilight Zone is a fantastic example of this concept.

There’s an ambiguous element about who the enemy is in the film which I enjoyed. There’s one particular scene where the reporters are in danger from a sniper in the distance, and Joel asks a soldier what that sniper’s deal is. The soldier’s response is funny because he’s like, “we’re getting shot at, what does it matter?” There are other situations that the journalists step into and don’t know what they are in for, and that element of the unknown adds to the excitement for the audience. 

Civil War’s cast is terrific, headed by Dunst, who hasn’t been in the box office spotlight since she stole many a comic book fan’s hearts two decades ago playing Mary Jane Watson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. It is nice to see her familiar smile, but this character is different in that Lee has been hardened by multiple war zone reporting gigs. Lee is also a reluctant mentor to Jessie, because she recognizes the similarities that they share, yet knows that the horror of this kind of life is not for everyone. Joel, on the other hand, is a natural war-time reporter, jumping into action without a care. He is a bit like Jake Gyllenhaal’s Nightcrawler: overzealous to the point of insanity. The cast is rounded out by Stephen McKinley Henderson, who is delightfully engaging in everything in which he appears. 

The first half of Civil War is a very slow burn, to the point of me questioning if I liked the film while I was watching. However, the second half is a complete one-eighty in terms of intensity and memorable scenes. Despite the unevenness, the entire package ends up being great and ending on a high note. 

I give Civil War four out of five hot sauce packets. It’s so hot that you’ll see red, white, and blue stars!

 

Jason Delgado

Jason is a CSULB film school alum and movie guy for Friends of Comic Con. He loves movies, TV, writing, comics, going to Cons, basketball (Lakers), music (all forms of rock + 90's hip hop), football (Chargers), his dog, and most importantly wife and newborn son. He's written a comedy/sci-fi script, and wants to write more in between raising a son. He doesn't often cosplay, but when he does, it's as Iron Fist. Follow him on Twitter @JasonDelgado78