Civil War | Picturehouse Recommends

Set against a trademark end-of-the-world backdrop in the not-too-distant future, Alex Garland's new movie paints a bleak picture of humanity and how it behaves when pushed to the absolute limit.

Ed Gibbs

11 Apr 24

Alex Garland

Release Date
12 April


Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura, Cailee Spaeny, Stephen Mckinley Henderson, Sonoya Mizuno, Jesse Plemons, Nick Offerman


Running Time
109 mins

Imagine this: what if America was to turn on itself and declare a civil war on its citizens? Martial law would be declared. Anyone who got in the way would be deemed an enemy of the state. Civilians and journalists would be fair game.

This terrifying proposition may sound far-fetched but in light of recent events around the world – and given America famously did have a civil war back in the 1860s – it's perhaps not beyond the realms of possibility. At least, not in the mind of acclaimed British filmmaker Alex Garland in his Civil War, an action thriller that is the writer-director's most ambitious film yet.

Set against a trademark end-of-the-world backdrop in the not-too-distant future, Garland's new movie paints a bleak picture of humanity and how it behaves when pushed to the absolute limit.

Kirsten Dunst heads up a superb cast, leading a team of journalists as they travel across the United States when a second civil war is declared. Along the way, they encounter groups of extremist militias taking the law into their own hands, while in the capital, Washington DC, a dystopian dictatorship rules with an iron fist.

The tagline for the film ("An adrenaline-fuelled thrill ride through a near-future fractured America balanced on the razor's edge") confirms that Garland is working on his biggest canvas to date, one even more expansive than his 2018 sci-fi monster mash Annihilation with Natalie Portman. As before, US indie entertainment house A24 is behind this new outing, which promises to set pulses racing when it's unleashed on the big screen.

Here, the "Western Forces" of Texas and California have suffered heavy defeats at the hands of the US military, with Washington DC providing the centre of violence for the fractured nation, as our group of journo heroes race to avert catastrophe.

Nick Offerman (Dumb Money, TV's The Last Of Us), known more for his droll, comedic roles, stars against type as the president intent on crushing dissent as the nation erupts in chaos around him.
Also in the stellar cast are Wagner Moura, Jesse Plemons and Cailee Spaeny (Golden Globe nominee for Priscilla), playing a young woman who looks up to Dunst's character and wants to become a war photographer.

Garland's standing as a filmmaker and storyteller is exceptional: his breakout novel, The Beach, sold more than a million copies, before becoming a hit Danny Boyle movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Garland then wrote a pile of superb scripts, including 28 Days Later for Boyle, before his own 2014 directorial debut, Ex Machina, was Oscar-nominated for its remarkable screenplay. So it seems likely that this latest outing will stir interest and acclaim in equal measure as it enters the world's psyche. He's most recently been focused on TV show Devs (which also starred Nick Offerman). Here's hoping this latest big-screen outing signals a full-on return to cinema.

What will certainly appeal to action and thriller fans is the no-nonsense running time. Set to come in at a lean one hour and 49 minutes, Civil War is poised to roar onto screens without an ounce of filler in sight. Cue massive set pieces that really deliver, and gripping sequences of jeopardy where literally anything could happen.

The militias aren't there for the nation's safety, and nor it seems is the US military. A chilling thought, indeed. Which is just the sort of stuff that bodes well for another classic turn from the mind and pen of Mr Garland.  Ed Gibbs

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Civil War is in cinemas from 12 April Book Now!