"Movie poster of 'Civil War,' written and directed by Alex Garland. The poster features a dramatic backdrop of a sunset sky with a large, setting sun at the center. Military helicopters fly in the foreground, and below is a silhouette of the Statue of Liberty and a city skyline at dusk. Text at the top states 'Welcome to the frontline.' The poster announces the movie is in theaters April 12 and available in IMAX, with the A24 logo at the bottom."
Alex Garland's Civil War Movie Poster

Alex Garland’s Civil War Movie Review

Rarely do I find myself shaking in a movie theatre. I have spent much of my youth watching movies and TV shows that have desensitized me.  

Then came writer and director Alex Garland’s new A24 film, Civil War.

Midway through, I looked down at my hands, which were shaking. At some moments of extreme violence, I had to look away and rub my ears for comfort. I was shell-shocked in real-time.

But I couldn’t leave the theatre.

Because I was watching a modern masterpiece and one that I needed to see through to the end. Based on other Garland-penned pictures, such as Ex Machina and 28 Days Later, I knew something big was coming, and I was on the edge of my seat to find out.

The unpredictability of this movie makes it remarkable. You knew the purpose of the characters, journalists, capturing the chaos of warfare in an apocalyptic America that seems eerily realistic, given our current political climate. It was an adventure road trip movie with an odd cast risking their lives to cover the chaos in front of them. They were on their way to interview the president in DC, and we knew it would be a dangerous, difficult mission.

The film focuses on four main characters: Lee (Kirsten Dunst), a seasoned photojournalist; her chain-smoking, excitable work partner, Joel (Wagner Moura); Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson), a retirement-aged journalistic veteran; and Jessie (Cailee Spaeny), a fresh-faced ambitious photographer.

We learn a lot about them quickly in the opening scenes, making them feel real and keeping us hooked as we capture this apocalyptic adventure with them.

The acting in this movie is sublime, and Kirsten Dunst gives an incredible performance at the center of it, worthy of winning some statues at award season.


On Wednesday, April 10th, at 6:30 PM, I walked into the Crosby Street Hotel for an advanced screening. Huge thank you to my uncle, who invited me as his plus one.

Strangely, though I had never been to the hotel before, it reminded me of the Ham Yard in London, and I knew right away that Kit Kemp had designed it. It felt like the Ham Yard but in New York.  

Given that the Ham Yard has a private movie theatre, so does the Crosby, with orange seats, purple walls, a smaller-sized screen, and an insane surround sound system, where you can hear every bullet fly and the detailed baselines of the score.

I must admit, I knew nothing about this movie before watching it. All I knew was that Dunst was the star and Garland was directing.


While Civil War is powerful, it oddly doesn’t feel as political as many modern Hollywood flicks. It doesn’t try to jam a particular perspective down your throat. It doesn’t tell you which side of the Civil War is correct or even explain why they started fighting in the first place. Some characters don’t seem to know other than they are fighting because the other side is trying to kill them.

While it doesn’t appeal to the woke or the conservative crowds, it can show us what happens when humanity goes off the rails.

Though clearly written and produced before October 7th, some of the imagery in the film reminded me of scenes from the Nova Festival massacre.

Art imitates life, as life imitates art. Of course, we all saw Contagion (2011) before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, there is a scene that reminded me a lot of the Holocaust as well, something I’m sure was thought about in the making of this film, or maybe not directly, but it may have been in the back of their minds. I can’t even imagine what the photographers experienced when capturing the horrors.  


From a filmmaking perspective, I knew this movie was expensive. The production’s 50 million price tag would be considered low compared to a Marvel film, such as Captain America: Civil War, but it is sizeable enough to feel like you are watching a significant Hollywood feature.

Rob Hardy’s cinematography is hauntingly beautiful. In one scene, the characters drive through a burning forest, and watching the sparks and flames cutting back between them is breathtaking. This is an ironic description because it was one of the few moments in the film when I felt I could take a deep breath.

Civil War’s script rarely gives you a moment to breathe. It is tense and intense from start to finish.

Final Thoughts

Should you see this movie?

I don’t recommend it to everyone.

If you enjoy disturbing, unpredictable, well-made movies, go for it.

You will not be disappointed.  

Civil War opens on Friday, April 12th, 2024.

All the best,


Check out my other movie reviews:

Not Okay: The Woman Who Wasn’t There

The Jonses

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