Civil War Movie Called Scary As Hell, See The First Shocking Reactions

By Charlene Badasie | Updated

civil war movie

Civil War, the dystopian action movie, written and directed by Alex Garland, premiered at the South by Southwest Film & TV Festival on March 14. The film avoids exploring the political fallout that caused the conflict. Instead, it focuses on the practical challenges of journalism in a battleground and the horrors of a civil war in contemporary America.

Reviewers Love Civil War And Are Terrified By It

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The first reactions have been overwhelmingly positive, with viewers praising the movie as gripping and deeply affecting. “Alex Garland’s Civil War movie is unlike anything I’ve ever watched. It’s a big, viscous, action-packed war picture from A24, which means it brings with it richness and depth you don’t get anywhere else,” journalist Erik Davis wrote.

Other journalists had similar thoughts, like Scott Mantz who mused, “one can’t help but feel how close we are to this actually happening. Jason Kauzlarich wrote, “My heart was constantly racing and my jaw was on the floor by the final act.” Perri Nemiroff says that the film highlights “the deeply chilling reality of living in a world that never learns.”

The Story

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The Civil War movie is set in a near-future America torn apart by the rule of an authoritarian President (Nick Offerman) serving a third term. The story follows a photojournalist named Lee Smith (Kirsten Dunst) and her team as they navigate through a hostile and fractured nation in hopes of securing an interview with its controversial leader.

The journalists embody a concerning sense of detachment. While this is a necessary aspect of their profession, it is also inherently at odds with human nature as they strive to remain impartial.

This stance presents a paradox as media organizations thrive on controversy to boost circulation and viewership. Some even go as far as stoking apprehension about a second American civil war.

Kirsten Dunst

Civil War also showcases a new side of Dunst in a movie. While she portrayed a rugged character in Power of the Dog, the toll of covering conflicts has visibly depleted her vitality in this film. At the premiere, Dunst talked about the transformation she underwent for the role, where perseverance and raw reactions surpass fundamental self-preservation.

A Little Too Close To Real Life

Per the first reactions, most of their journey resembles Garland’s earlier work in 28 Days Later. But this time, civilians and soldiers armed with assault rifles are the threat instead of zombies. The Civil War movie has drawn attention for coinciding with a contentious election year where President Joe Biden has asserted that “democracy is at stake” due to Donald Trump’s history of attempting to undermine election laws.

Although the notion of a modern-day civil war may seem improbable, a 2022 poll conducted by YouGov and the Economist revealed that 40 percent of Americans believe a new civil war is somewhat likely in the next decade. When questioned about the timing of his movie, Garland said, “It was four years ago. I wrote it back then and sent it to A24, and they just said, ‘Yup, all good,’ which was surprising.”

An Important Conversation

“This is a brave film to finance, so it was super appreciated,” the filmmaker said of his Civil War movie. Speaking about why the movie doesn’t explain what causes the war, Garland said, “The film is intended to be a conversation. It is not asserting things. You want to leave space for people to bring themselves to the conversation. It’s important that it was a two-way street.”


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Development on Civil War began in January 2022, when reports surfaced about Garland agreeing to write and direct the movie for A24. Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Cailee Spaeny were attached to star. Karl Glusman and Sonoya Mizuno were added to the cast later that year.

Principal photography began in Atlanta in March 2022. By May, the production had moved to London. Notably, the production budget for Civil War amounted to $50 million, marking it as A24’s most financially significant movie endeavor to date.

Civil War Is On Its Way

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Civil War currently holds a 73 percent critics rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on 11 reviews. Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, awards the movie 72 out of 100. The movie will hit theaters on April 12, 2024.