Complete A-Z list

Civil War


Stars: Kirsten Dunst, Cailee Spaeny, Wagner Moura, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jesse Plemons, Nick Offerman

Director: Alex Garland

This is a very expensive-looking, but pretty darn good action film. Full of grisly violence and disturbing images, it's set in a dystopian future and posits the idea that California and Texas have seceded from the Union, and that civil war rages across the country with a terrified president (Offerman) bunkered in the White House.

The action, which comes virtually non-stop, focuses on the adventures of four photo-journalists as they journey cross-country in their press van, hoping for scoops at the end of the line. Lee (Dunst) is a famous, battle-hardened veteran, accompanied by Joel (Moura), who hopes to get a quote from the embattled president, old-timer Sam (Henderson, a dead ringer for Burl Ives) and rookie snapper Jessie (Spaeny), who begins by being appalled by the violence, but later develops into the most intrepid of the four, and hungry for sensational shots at any cost, even as Dunst's Lee becomes numbed by the horror all around them.

This is really Spaeny's film, in fact, despite the excellence of the other three, and the sequence where she is tipped on to hundreds of dead bodies in a mass grave will turn more than a few stomachs.

Firestorms come fast and furious as the snappers risk life and limb for the right image. The portrait of a country at war with itself, if a touch unlikely, is savagely brought to life - even if the death of one of the main characters at the end does seem more than a little contrived. Sone of its grimmer images, however, may stay in the memory longer than you find comfortable.

David Quinlan

USA 2023. UK Distributor: A24 Films. Colour by Cinelease.
108 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 09 Apr 2024