Goodbye, America! Now Showing: The Most Controversial Political Film of The Season “Civil War”

Photo: the military road movie “Civil War,” which actually tells about the civil war in a conditional but quite recognizable America of the 21st century. Source: A24.

In European and Ukrainian cinemas right now, you can catch the most intriguing film of the season, simply and expressively titled “Civil War” (known as “Rebellion of the States” in Ukrainian cinemas). This film has attracted both favorable and unfavorable attention, which made “Civil War” not only the main film of the season but also the most controversial.

This is the most expensive and ambitious project of “A24” – the main non-Hollywood studio, which has financed all the most notable American indie films for the past 12 years. Starting with the fantastic “Everything Everywhere All at Once” which gathered almost all the Oscars last year (7 statuettes out of 11 nominations), and ending with true masterpieces of contemporary cinema like “First Reformed” by New Hollywood veteran Paul Schrader.

The writer and director of the film is British Alex Garland, the author of the novel “The Beach,” which became an absolute bestseller in the late nineties. Both on bookshelves and in theaters adorned with posters featuring the face of a young Leonardo DiCaprio all over the world. A born playwright and dialogue master, Garland fulfilled the cherished dream of many writers by realizing himself in cinema as a screenwriter and director.

Garland has directed several notable science fiction films and series (“Ex Machina,” “Annihilation,” “Devs”) before making his main masterpiece – a metaphorical horror film about the eternal struggle of genders, “Men,” with Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear, who played all the main male roles.

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What This Film Is About

And now – the military road movie “Civil War,” which actually tells about the civil war in a conditional but quite recognizable America of the 21st century. When part of the states in the west of the country rises up against the president who usurped power (played by comedian Nick Offerman, who quite expectedly resembles Donald Trump), and through bloody chaos, marches armed to Washington.

The idea of this film, as they say, was in the air, starting from the January storming of the Capitol in 2021. When the whole world, as if spellbound, watched in live the most thrilling show of bearded American nationalists in horned helmets, who were hosting in the congressmen’s offices as if in their own backyard. Political satires like Armando Iannucci (TV series “In the Loop” and the film “The Death of Stalin”) could have made such a film, but reality turned out to be much crazier.

Actually, Garland’s film is just as uncomfortable and a little embarrassing to watch. Made in the documentary style of another notable dystopia, Alfonso Cuarón’s “Children of Men” (where in scenes of street battles, shot by the great Emmanuel Lubezki, blood splatters flew right into the lens), the film is unlikely to appeal to the Ukrainian audience. Ukrainians saw something similar in their own windows 2.5 years ago when Russian troops stood near Kyiv, in Irpin and Bucha, and occupied Kherson.

Some hot-headed liberal heads on social media even called Garland’s film pro-Kremlin PSYOP, as always, confusing sinful with righteous. Russians “simply” renamed the film to “The Fall of the Empire,” which is natural from the standpoint of Putin’s propaganda.

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And Why It’s So Important Not to Miss It

The film failed in the global box office, not even collecting half of its $50 million budget. And again, it’s easy to understand why. If Garland had made his film in the spirit of pompous blockbusters like “Independence Day,” “Civil War” would have easily become a box office hit. Agree, it’s not easy to crunch popcorn watching a movie that so simply and impartially depicts what happens to people in the chaos of civil war when everyone fights against everyone else, and no one adheres to either the Geneva Conventions or other laws of war.

Because when laws stop working, you can do whatever you want. Just as Russian occupying forces did in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.

The Western world is tired to death of the war in Ukraine, and now the Middle East has flared up again. So the audience can be purely humanly understood. It’s unpleasant for the audience when they are reminded once again that soon the first cruise missile of Iranian production, launched by Russians, will fall into their backyard, as if they hadn’t been to the cinema but watched the news on TV.

That’s why Garland’s film will be remembered for a long time. But there’s another reason why “Civil War” cannot be missed – it’s one of the most honest films about the profession of a reporter. Its main characters are a group of journalists led by one of the best contemporary actresses, Kirsten Dunst, who makes her way through the fire-ravaged country to Washington to see how the rebels will enter the White House.

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I often thought about what my former colleague and good friend Serhiy Nikolayev, a lover of cognac and American rockabilly music, would say about this film. He seemed to have passed through all the hotspots in the world with his camera, and only a fragment of a Russian bomb in Donbas 10 years ago was able to stop him. He would probably say that it’s not like this in real life: they don’t shoot like that, they don’t behave under fire like that, and they don’t film like that. And he would be right, of course.

But when you see how Dunst’s character clings to her camera in the very first scenes of the film – that’s how good musicians hold their instruments. Or how in the finale a group of reporters leads armed rebels to the president’s bunker to take unique shots of historical significance, you begin to take pride in your work. 


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