“Civil War” is a powerful, gripping portrayal

Published 12:47 pm Tuesday, May 14, 2024

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This week at the Tryon Theatre, we have “Civil War,” a powerful and gripping film depicting the unique perspective of war journalists as they distance themselves from the brutality around them through the lenses of their cameras. 

This film comes from the remarkably talented hands of writer and director Alex Garland, whose skill for making unsettlingly compelling films is unrivaled in the modern day. “Civil War” depicts a dystopian near future of the United States that has crumbled into internal division, with neighboring citizens thrown against each other in dedication to rivaling factions. The narrative chronicles this rapidly escalating strife as it is explored at the ground level by a small group of journalists, some veterans, some rookies. 

From the outset of the narrative, “Civil War” clips along at a rather aggressive pace, concisely establishing its setting and characters, diving headlong into the tension and madness of war. The film capitalizes on the visceral experience of its scenes, emphasizing the flow and frenzy of the subject matter. 

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“Civil War” attempts to depict its alternative future with as much realism as possible, unflinching in its portrayal of war but resisting the urge to sensationalize it for the audience. In doing so, it does ask a certain undertaking of its viewers: the will to embrace a solemn perspective on the nature of warfare. Many other films depicting war have chosen to deny the potential cheaper thrills for a more somber reckoning, and “Civil War” operates similarly. This commitment to realism, though, comes at a cost, one in which the camera, much like the attention of the journalists, is unwavering in its gaze, never breaking in its portrayal of violence and suffering, two elements found aplenty in any such turmoil. This cost demanded from the viewers does square “Civil War” solely as a film for a mature audience, as does its thematic base, as an appreciation for the fragility of life can only come from having lived enough of one. 

All that being said, it is what this film does not address that is perhaps the most compelling to a potential filmgoer. While its title and narrative are provocative, “Civil War” pays no care to trafficking in explanations for its setting of division and strife. The politics and policies informing the situation at hand are largely irrelevant and would serve to work against the film’s intent. A removed and analytical perspective on the war at hand, one that could provide insight into motivations and ideologies, is antithetical to the goal of the film. 

“Civil War” seeks to plant you in the feet of a boots-on-the-ground journalist, an eye on the war that is distanced by only the width of a photographic lens. We hope our audience will share in this immersive perspective and join us for this compelling and intense film!