Civil War 2024 Review - A Compelling Movie That Could've Hit Harder

By Russ Milheim Posted:
Civil War, cailee spainey

A24’s Civil War is a haunting and disturbing road trip movie across a war-torn United States that is well worth the audience's time and attention, even if there are some inherent flaws in its approach.

In the opening moments of Alex Garland’s Civil War, the film’s narrative asks audiences to believe the impossible: California and Texas have allied with one another to become the Western Forces, a rebellion that has risen against the United States of America.

Throughout the film, I was constantly asking myself how that could ever come to pass—those two states would surely never be on the same page for anything… right?

Well, in the case of Civil War, they are, and the film offers no real answer as to why. But before exploring why an omission like that could be more problematic than not, let’s jump back a few steps.

The movie follows a group of journalists as they journey across a broken United States landscape in a fictional future timeline where a civil war has broken out nationwide. The cast as a whole is fantastic and is easily among the strongest elements of the film.

The group is led by Kirsten Dunst’s Lee, an experienced and jaded war photographer, who directly contrasts with Cailee Spaeny’s Jessie—an up-and-coming journalist who views Lee as a hero. A reluctant mentorship starts to grow between the two characters, which becomes the emotional backbone of the whole narrative.

Joining them is Wagner Moura’s Joel and Stephen Mckinley Henderson’s Sammy. 

Nothing seems to phase Joel until it does, which provides an intriguing and dynamic journey for his character. Joel also wants to get a final interview with the President before the rebellion succeeds in attacking DC, which is what prompts the whole trip to begin with.

Civil War 2024 movie still

As for Sammy, he is the voice of reason who has not given way to jadedness like Lee has.

It is important to note how the posters for the film can be a little misleading. For example, audiences should not be tuning in to watch a massive battle at the Statue of Liberty. The movie's concept is far wider in scope than nearly any particular moment in the story.

Civil War is structured in a way that lets viewers experience little moments sprinkled here and there across the lead group’s journey—reminiscent of stumbling into unique world-building moments as a player exploring a post-apocalyptic video game.

While all of these moments are strictly fiction, they do noot lack intense narrative weight, with tension-filled encounters that help give audiences a sense of what reporting in a war zone would be like. 

While there is a handful of incredibly powerful visuals throughout the film's runtime, there is a clear sense that Garland could have gone further.

It is hard not to feel like the filmmaker was holding back. The root of this issue comes from the vagueness of the story’s world and why the conflict is happening in the first place.

Sure, there is a line or two referring to things that have happened, but it is never enough to grasp why audiences should connect with this bleak existence. Instead, the movie avoids making nearly any definitive statements, likely in a bid to not polarize viewers any more than the initial concept inherently already does.

This is something that circles back around to the unsolvable question: why would California and Texas get on the same page? Giving more concrete answers to questions like that would have led to the film being notably more impactful than it already is.

The Final Verdict: 

At the end of the day, A24's Civil War is well worth watching, even if its bite does not draw as much blood as it could. While more pointed messages could be made, audiences are still left with a haunting road trip film filled with great performances that offer up an exciting what-if narrative.

The Direct’s Official Rating: 8.0 / 10

Civil War lands in theaters worldwide on Friday, April 12.

Keep up with these other A24 projects:

Dream Scenario Plot Explained: The True Meaning of the Movie

Zone of Interest Movie Online Release Date Revealed: When Will It Start Streaming?

Euphoria Season 3: Release, Cast and Everything We Know So Far

- In This Article: Civil War
Release Date
April 12, 2024
Jesse Plemons
Kirsten Dunst
Nick Offerman
- About The Author: Russ Milheim
Russ Milheim is the Industry Relations Coordinator at The Direct. On top of utilizing his expertise on the many corners of today’s entertainment to cover the latest news and theories, he establishes and maintains communication and relations between the outlet and the many studio and talent representatives.