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Exploring American Life During Wartime in ‘Civil War’ – Beverly Press & Park Labrea News

Wagner Moura and Kirsten Dunst portray two weary journalists in the film “Civil War.” The essence of a compelling thriller has evolved over time. While classic thrillers like Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” exploited common fears such as marine predators, contemporary thrillers delve into our societal anxieties. Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” masterfully translated 21st-century racial tensions into a gripping horror narrative. Modern thrillers resonate with the current cultural climate by spotlighting topics that evoke fear or discomfort, bringing them to the forefront. In “Civil War,” crafted by writer/director Alex Garland, the narrative boldly tackles the prevalent dread of political division and societal disintegration within the United States.

The storyline unfolds amidst the turmoil of a war-ravaged New York City, where seasoned photojournalist Lee Smith (Kirsten Dunst) and her partner Joel (Wagner Moura) are engrossed in their latest and most significant assignment yet – documenting a civil war unfolding within their homeland. While Lee has a history of capturing the brutal realities of warfare in foreign lands, glimpses of her past traumas surface through haunting flashbacks. Their mission takes an unexpected turn when they cross paths with aspiring photojournalist Jessie (Cailee Spaeny), prompting a sudden journey to Washington, D.C. accompanied by their mentor, experienced New York Times writer Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson). As they navigate the treacherous path towards the nation’s capital, facing imminent danger posed by the rebel faction known as the “Western Forces,” the group aims to uncover the truth behind the authoritarian regime led by the former three-term president (Nick Offerman).

The film’s perspective is intricately woven through the lens of the photojournalists, capturing stark images of violence that grip the audience in moments of eerie silence. The portrayal mirrors the stark reality of wartime chaos, akin to perusing a newspaper amidst tragedy, depicted with a disconcertingly matter-of-fact demeanor. The characters grapple with their roles as mere observers, adhering to the unspoken code of documenting atrocities without intervention, a harsh reality that particularly impacts the inexperienced Jessie.

Unlike conventional heroes, the protagonists in “Civil War” exhibit vulnerability and flaws, devoid of extraordinary abilities or military prowess. Their portrayal as ordinary individuals thrust into extraordinary circumstances adds a layer of authenticity and relatability amidst a cinematic landscape dominated by larger-than-life characters. However, the film’s shortcomings stem from its characters, with occasional flat dialogue and predictable character arcs diluting the overall impact. While the performances are competent, they lack a standout element of distinction.

The narrative primarily serves as a poignant reflection on American life during wartime rather than a spectacle of national conflict akin to blockbuster disaster films. Despite moments of explosive action, the film adopts a deliberate, slow-burning pace, offering a glimpse into the aftermath of conflict with a sense of impending closure. The desolate backdrop of the American Northeast, scarred by destruction and loss, sets the stage for a harrowing portrayal of war’s aftermath, juxtaposing serene landscapes with the remnants of devastation.

“Civil War” refrains from direct political references but starkly opposes the notion of internal strife. Garland’s depiction of a nation torn asunder by internal conflict is grim, unflinching, and provocatively concise. Clocking in at 1 hour and 49 minutes, the film leaves lingering questions in its wake, prompting contemplation on the plausibility of such a dire scenario. As audiences grapple with the horrors depicted on screen, the lingering uncertainty begs the question – could such a narrative transcend fiction into reality?

Cailee Spaeny assumes the role of Jessie, a budding photojournalist navigating her inaugural assignment amidst the backdrop of a second American civil war.