Civil War by Alex Garland is more like a Civil Dud.

Civil War by Alex Garland is a film that imagines a dystopian America caught in a second Civil War. California and Texas have united to create the Western Forces while Florida, Alabama, and a few other states form the Florida Alliance. There are apparently two more alliances, but the film doesn’t bother to introduce them. I had to check an online article to find out more information. Before you consider checking this movie out on streaming, here’s what to expect.

Once again, the trailer succeeds to deceive and mislead.

The trailer suggests an action film of opposing states battling each other for control of the country. Snipers perched on top of the buildings overlooking the capital, helicopters blasting cities, regular people shooting at each other on the streets.

But that’s not what this film is. Civil War is a film about Lee (Kirsten Dunst) and Joel (Wagner Moura) embarking on a perilous journey to Washington D.C. to get an interview with the President (Nick Offerman).

Civil War is a story about journalism and has almost nothing to do the title.

Lee standing in an area surrounded by orange lights, camera slung over her shoulder.

Before the journey begins, there is a montage of in-fighting throughout the United States. It’s not clear who is fighting or why they’re fighting. It’s just violence with an extremely disturbing image of a man lit on fire.

Later on, in New York City, citizens are fighting in front of a water tank for rations of water. Lee and an upcoming journalist named Jessie (Cailee Spaeny) are photographing the event when a woman with long hair runs out carrying an American flag. The shot is visually striking and beautiful as the sun diffuses through the fabric of the flag.

A female flag bearer runs past Lee and Jessie while strapped with a explosive device.

The flag bearer runs into the water tank and detonates a suicide vest. The explosion kills everyone who had been in line for water. Lee and Jessie take out their cameras and photograph the carnage.

Lee surveys the carnage on the NYC streets, there are bodies everywhere.

Throughout the entire film, director Alex Garland splices in their photos marking “pivotal” moments. Sometimes they will be color images, oftentimes they will be grayscale like the ones you see in a TIME magazine.

The photos aren’t impressive and the splices negatively affect the pacing of the film.

Whenever the characters take a photo, the film comes to a complete stop. Sometimes there’s audio in the background and sometimes it’s silent. It was a cool gimmick the first couple of times. But it wears out its welcome well before the end of the movie.

I did not know this was a movie about war journalism. I thought Civil War was going to be about . . . you know, a Civil War. Once again, a deceptive trailer gave the appearance of this being an action movie.

This trailer is very, VERY deceptive. The actual movie is significantly less interesting.

Civil War is incredibly tedious and overwhelmingly boring. But its worst sin is that it doesn’t make sense.

For example, in the trailer there is a dramatic scene where two cars are next to each other and a man is trying to board the other vehicle. The trailer made it seem as if this was A.) a rescue or B.) an attack.

Here’s what really happened.

The guy in the chase car is friends with the driver of the protagonist car. He thought it would be funny to get into their SUV by climbing through the window while they are driving.

There was no dangerous chase or heroic rescue mission. Tony (Nelson Lee) who seems like he’s high on drugs, crawls out of his window and jumps into Lee and Joel’s car. Then, Jessie (the journalist Lee is mentoring) decides she wants to get into Tony’s car. She crawls out of the window and climbs into the other car. Then the other car speeds off implying a kidnapping plot.

Civil War goes through the trouble of deceiving the audience by making them think the characters have ill intentions.

But the real reason Jesse climbed into the other car that sped off was as an excuse to force a conflict that comes from out of nowhere.

For some, bizarre reason the car Jesse got into crashed. When Lee and her crew arrive, Jessie and Tony’s friend are kneeling at gunpoint by Jessie Plemon’s racist soldier. The character in the strawberry-colored sunglasses who asks, “What kind of American are you?”

Civil War - Jessie Plemons soldier asking Jesse "what kind of American are you?"

And you, the audience, start asking the obvious questions:

  1. What was the point of Tony and Jessie swapping seats in cars. No one thought to tell them, “Hey, don’t do that it’s dangerous?”
  2. Why was Tony’s friend driving so fast?
  3. Why were Tony and his friend randomly following Lee and her crew?
  4. Why did Tony’s friend crash the car?
  5. How did Jessie Plemon’s character capture them so quickly? Lee’s car wasn’t that far behind.

It’s fucking dumb!

As if the writing wasn’t bad enough. Civil War has some of the worst editing I have ever seen in a film.

Slo-mo is an excellent dramatization effect for movies. When Boromir slowly eats arrows in Lord of the Rings, the slow motion made his death heartbreaking. In 300, when the soldiers rush out to meet the enemy in slow motion, it’s one of the most memorable moments in the entire film.

In Civil War they throw the slow-motion effect for every stupid thing, ruining the power of the effect.

The absolute worst use of slow motion happens in the first ground battle we see between the alliances and government forces.

A team of rebels manage to capture a squad of government forces. They line the squad shoulder to shoulder while a rebel loads a heavy machine gun. After the rebel started shooting, I realized I watched one of the corniest, cringe-worthy, dumbest scenes in movie history.

We get a close up of the rebel’s face as he’s shooting at the soldiers. His long black hair is flowing in slow motion as he has a maniacal expression on his face. The gun shoots in slow motion, killing the soldiers, and this damn music is playing in the background the entire time. De La Soul – Say No Go. There is NO AUDIO except for the music.

Imagine hearing THIS during an execution.

What were they thinking with this editing decision?

They made a mockery of a gruesome moment. Then they go ahead and add those damn still frame photos to completely rob the moment of any emotional value. It’s a freaking joke and I don’t know if it will ever leave my top 3 worst scenes in movie history, and I’ve seen some bad movies.

The only salvation to this boring ass film is the finale action sequence.

The thing that we all paid money to see happens at the very end. The Civil War comes to a head when militia forces begin their attack on Washington D.C. Finally the action ramps up to a ten. Apache Helicopters launch rockets at buildings, tanks roll through the streets of D.C., and soldiers battle through an overwhelming amount of government forces.

Civil War - A helicopter shoots a rocket at a parking garage.

The action beats are often ruined by still photos. However, it’s so good you could see where the movie’s 50-million-dollar budget went. Even this spectacular action sequence is not worth the price of admission. It’s not even worth it to check the movie out on streaming.

I originally convinced myself the movie was OK, but after thinking about it for a few weeks, I changed my mind and decided Alex Garland’s Civil War is an utter waste of time.

  • It has nothing to say about a Civil War.
  • The music and editing is the worst I’ve ever seen.
  • It’s unbelievably boring.
  • The movie is about uninteresting journalists.
  • Last but not least, it is utterly pointless.

Alex Garland’s Civil War gets a solid TWO out of five stars. Complete waste of time.

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Wilmar Luna

Couldn't be a superhero in real life so he decided to write his own. When he's not creating empowered female characters he can be found watching films, reading books, and playing lots of video games. Buy his books here: