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Today’s Prayer Focus

Civil War

also known as “Guerra Civil,” “İç Savaş,” “Ngày Tàn Của Đế Quốc,” “Polgárháború,” “Război civil,” See more »
MPA Rating: R-Rating (MPA) for strong violent content, bloody/disturbing images, and language throughout.

Reviewed by: Mike Klamecki

Moral Rating: Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: Adults
Genre: Dystopian Action IMAX
Length: 1 hr. 49 min.
Year of Release: 2024
USA Release: March 14, 2024 (film festival)
April 12, 2024 (wide release—3,838 theaters)
DVD: July 9, 2024
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Relevant Issues
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A 3rd term President

Film with possible political aims

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Climate crisis

Immigration and refugee crisis

Political optics



Kirsten DunstWho is Kirsten Dunst?

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Violent uncertainty of life in a nation in crisis

Fictional civil war in America

Set in near future

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What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer

About the fall of mankind to worldwide depravity

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FILM VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer

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Featuring Kirsten DunstLee, a renowned war photojournalist
Nick OffermanPresident of the United States
Wagner MouraJoel
Jefferson WhiteDave
Nelson LeeTony
Evan LaiBohai
Cailee SpaenyJessie
Stephen McKinley HendersonSammy
Vince PisaniConcierge
Justin James BoykinAmerican Soldier (Middle East)
Jess MatneyCheckpoint Soldier
Alexa MansourAid Worker Refugee Camp
Karl GlusmanSpotter
See all »
Director Alex Garland, son of British political cartoonist Nicholas Garland
Producer A24
DNA Films [Great Britain]
IPR.VC [Finland]
See all »
Distributor: A24. Trademark logo.
A24 Films LLC

In 2022, a poll stated that 43% of Americans expected a civil war within the next ten years. When you read the results of that poll you might wonder what a civil war in America would actually look like in our modern time. We hear the horrible stats of the actual Civil War that America endured (with over 520,000 American fatalities in the span of four years) and wonder if that would pale in comparison to a modern day rift in America’s unity.

We don’t get those answers in Alex Garland’s “Civil War”. Actually we don’t get any answers to questions that we may want to know such as: Who fired first? How did Texas and California wind up on the same side? What other collations have teamed up? How long has the war been going on?

No, we are thrust in the middle of this conflict as a passenger in this “road trip through hell,” and that is by design. To it’s credit “Civil War” is light on the specifics so that our overly-opinionated nation won’t see what side the studio is coming from. That makes the film something different to be sure but also somewhat tedious as we would like to have more background in this troubled world.

The memorable war movies are always harrowing, violent, and visceral and “Civil War” is that in spades. Yet it’s even more disturbing as all the casualties and killing are done by Americans to Americans and in sometimes incredibly cold and calculated ways. You will not walk away unaffected.

We are introduced to our road-trip companions as they hustle and jostle as journalist observers in a street skirmish involving military and pedestrians fighting over water.

Lee (played by an amazing Kirsten Dunst) is a long-time war photographer with a thousand-yard stare and grim disposition which tells everyone she has seen so much that she sees nothing anymore.

Her road companion is the vice-fueled, outrageously brash thrill-seeking reporter Joel (Wagner Moura).

They are both are looking for the big story… a wartime sit-down interview with the embattled and maybe sinister President of the United States played by Nick Offerman before he surrenders to the forces led by the California/Texas connection called the Western Forces who identify with a two-star version of the American flag.

Lee and Joel have to reach DC from New York City, but due to travel route difficulties they must navigate through Pittsburgh and round into and through West Virginia before entering the Capitol.

Before heading out Joel includes two “liabilities” (as Lee would call them) on the trip in the form of their older friend and veteran reporter Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson) who lends a wise, friendly tone. We also get the young, eager and green Jessie (Cailee Spaeny) who desires to be a photojournalist just like Dunst’s legendary Lee but also is our avatar through this maddening journey through war-torn America.

Lee is not welcoming to this idea but eventually warms up to having a protégé with her as she teaches her the ropes as they go.

One thing that is interesting is the whole photojournalist mindset of “supply the image and let the viewer make the call” which is refreshing in this culture of news agencies that all seem to have an agenda. We are also along from the ride, literally, as we spend much time in the Press van going from place to place, battle to battle.

Just like real war some of it is mundane and plodding, some is riveting and conscious-searing, and some is downright confusing and other-worldly (the sequence of the winter wonderland is a stand out). We are helpless as we see close up gunfighting take out victims through the click-whirrr of Jessie’s black and white photos which portray singular two second silent images of the chaos.

This is a road movie through and through with all the trappings road movies give such as weird destinations, weird people, and weird situations. But because it’s also a war movie there are flourishes of bloody violence, torment, death and torture.

It follows the “Apocalypse Now” tradition which also was a road movie (be it on a river) where they are moving ever closer to the end assignment but first they must go through frightening landscapes where anything can happen including the worst things you can imagine (as with a few scenes of especially brutal treatment of fellow countrymen).

Writer and director Alex Garland (“Ex Machina,” “Annihilation,” “Dredd,” “Men”) isn’t one to have many redemptive arcs in his movies or sympathetic antagonists. Many of his movies are on the grim side with very flawed characters who are usually questioning the value of life when things start to get ugly.

Our characters in “Civil War” have minimal arcs to them and usually center around how they cope with all the horrible things they have seen—ranging from isolation to elation. Lee has a temporary loss of nerve at the most inopportune time, and Jesse takes a turn from scared novice to wide-eyed opportunist (much like Jake Gyllenhaal’s turn in 2014’s “Nightcrawler”). By the end we don’t have anyone we can really side with or feel sympathy for besides the nation itself.

The finale at the Capitol is spacially very condensed compared to the previous sprawling footage our companions engage in, and the final few minutes feel like they ran out of money and pulled the plug in mid-shoot leaving you with a need of some kind of wrap-up or final thought (or maybe not including it was the point).

A24 Studios, a small art film studio that has become a successful movie churning machine, has their biggest budgeted and released film yet in “Civil War” which makes it a curious creation. On one hand it moves and delivers like a bigger budget studio pic with all the action, effects, and looks (Alex Garland is a master at making great looking films) of a more mainstream film to the point of filming in IMAX for goodness sakes. Yet it has the A24 sensibilities of artsy images, use of deep depth-of-field lenses, and a quirky soundtrack (which sometimes adds to the insanity and sometimes makes you scratch your head). It’ll be interesting to see if A24 develops more of these bigger scale pictures in the future.

Being a war movie, you will experience some very traumatic events displayed on the big screen like: burning people alive, bloody torture, massive body counts, LOUD explosions and gunfire, and scenes of massacres. Alcohol and drug usage abounds. I call upon the “Goodfellas Rule” where if it gets close to 50 F-bombs you can stop counting the curse words. There is no time for sex or sensuality and very little (I counted two) mentions of our Lord’s name.

The fighting scenes are intense as are the very frightening scenes where citizens have taken the law into their own hands in this free-for-all war. Be warned. Many scenes will leave a residue on your mind.

We live in a heavily divided nation at this point in history. Rabid politics, social media, societal changes due to Covid, and agenda-driven journalism has exacerbated this divide among Americans. Yet it is a time such as this where believers in Jesus have an unbelievable opportunity to stand out as light and salt in today’s world by simply following what the Word says.

Paul, in his day, lived under an extremely vile political system. The Roman government was incredibly immoral, power hungry, and abusive. Paul, while serving a prison sentence under this government, writes a command to the believers of Jesus who are suffering under the Romans:

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written:

“It is mine to avenge; I will repay, ‘…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’ —Romans 12:17-19, 21

Believers are constantly lured into the trap of railing against their neighbor because of their political leanings, or posting abusive feedback on social media, or inflaming their own anger by marinating in comment sections, Facebook Groups, or pundits’ opinions. If not careful, we soon center our identity around who is our political enemy rather than Who we should be following with our whole heart.

Paul gives a better way to impact people around us in these divided times as we live very close to those different to us and at the same time live much differently than those who surround us. We are the new exiles who find themselves in a strange, post-Christian landscape. But like the Israelites in Babylon, we are called to, as the late Pastor Tim Keller said, “…find ways to show love to our community without falling in love with society.”

Q & A

For a follower of Christ, what is LOVE—a feeling, an emotion, or an action?

I can’t give a high recommendation to “Civil War” due to scene intensity and lack of any kind of redemption. It becomes an exercise in endurance rather than a story to learn or grow from. But, God willing, maybe Americans who see this (which will be a lot) will understand how harrowing a “Civil War” could be, and we can drop that 43% survey result mentioned at the top of the review to something much lower.

  • Violence: Very Heavy to Extreme
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Very Heavy — “F*ck” (50+), obscene hand gestures (3), “M*therf**ker,” “Bullsh*t,” “Sh*t,” “B*stard”"
  • Drugs/Alcohol: Heavy
  • Profane language: including J*sus (1), Oh my G*d, G*d, Holy ____, d*mn
  • Nudity: Woman in bathtub showing shoulders and bar knees, woman in cleavage-baring dress
  • Sex: Comment about a drunk “hitting on” a young woman
  • Occult: None
  • Wokeism: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

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