Civil War

Civil War


Leonard Zwelling


I don’t frequently write movie reviews any more. I don’t go to the theater much now. People talk, use their cellphones, and spill soda on the floor. It’s not worth it. My TV is big enough. But this won’t really be a movie review.

This new, highly successful film (Civil War) by Alex Garland who made Ex Machina and Annihilation stars Kirsten Dunst as a hardened war photographer.

The details of the film can be assessed by reading the many op-eds and reviews about it (above) or, going to see it. I suggest the latter and bag the former. Why?

First, this film may contain a civil war in a near future America, but it is not about politics at all. Any film that posits that red Texas and blue California merge, secede, and form a new alliance is ignoring today’s politics entirely. That’s the clue. Politics is not on display here.

What is on display are two things: the danger of being a journalist covering a war and the beauty of America that could be lost if we are not careful.

The premise is that there are reporters and photographers in New York City who want to cover what is expected to be the waning days of the conflict which we know nothing about. They cannot get to DC where the story of the war will likely end. Interstate 95 has been destroyed. They have to take a roundabout route through rural Pennsylvania and West Virginia where the war has had unexpected consequences. See the film for details, but the good and more of the bad that is present day America is on display throughout the journey and I don’t mean either Donald Trump or Joe Biden. They are not mentioned. The President, who is briefly seen, remains unnamed.

This is essentially a four-person road movie, Thelma and Louise where everyone doesn’t die, but that’s not the point.

The point is that it shows what we are losing by being so confrontational with one another. This is a beautiful country that can be lost for silly reasons and because we behave badly.

Sure, there’s a President against whom the rebellion is being mounted, but other than the fact that he lies in a speech and bombs his own people as well as appoints himself to a third term, we know little of his politics here either. He could be a Republican. He could be a Democrat. You are not told in the film.

This is an odyssey. There are monsters and challenges worthy of Scylla and Charybdis and an Odysseus like hero(ine), but mostly this is a warning that America is not that far from disintegration unless we begin to listen to one another and try to heal.

This vision of tomorrow is bleak. Let’s hope it’s not real, but it sure is credible.

The film should be seen for its gestalt. It feels real and in that feeling it becomes possible and if it is possible then we need to head it off.

It never suggests how we could have done that.

But if you were in America on January 6, 2021 and were watching a television, then this may well be one logical conclusion. In the end, is the violence really in service of a belief system, or merely a dark American trait?

See the film and decide.

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