Civil War

Why Civil War? Alex Garland’s thing as a writer and sometimes director seems to be high-concept, high-quality 5-minutes-into-the-future speculations with problematic endings. 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Annihilation – all are dressed up in nice conceptions, vignettes and visualisations but find nowhere satisfying to go in the third act. Even Garland’s most consistent Ex Machina left us with an unanswered question. 

Civil War, set in what might be an imagined reification of America’s internet wars seen through the actual lens of a troupe of war photographers, makes good sense of the motivation and experiences of these unarmed shooters, but setting it in an imaginary, violently divided future USA begs too many questions to be ignored and they distract from the gravitas of the character’s journeys. As a result we’re left focussing on neither.

So the choice to tell us nothing about the war results in a failure of meaning for the film, especially given the riven air around us and a growing intolerance for democracy fanned by a post-news media that drowns us in cacophonies of opinion. What’s more this media rarely employs the likes of these telephoto-toting bravehearts to gather actual news anymore. 

Civil War’s apparent view that red-staters are tearing the country apart while waving the flag makes it clear this is not a Trumper wish-fulfilment fantasy. It runs alongside a recent trend of liberal filmmakers telling the stories of red state so-called conservatives while letting them unravel, like Yellowstone. All that liberal-hating cowboy stuff is romantic as hell but hey, daddy Dutton thinks we actually are wrecking the planet. Maybe we are supposed to feel that America is fighting itself about nothing – not that there’s nothing to fight about – but we’re swept up in false flags distracting us from real threats while the real villains laugh at us.

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