Civil War: A Tale Journalistic Integrity

17th Dallas International Film Festival

By Daniel R. Durrett
Civil War is a 2024 dystopian action film written and directed by Alex Garland (Ex Machina, 28 Days Later). The film stars Kirsten Dunst  (Melancholia, Spider-Man), in a career-defining role, portrays Lee a lifelong photojournalist who is out to make sure history has a lens, a view of the truth through impactful photos.

Lee joins A team of journalists who travel to document and decipher or possibly provide an understanding of this Civil War. Lee is joined by Joel, uniquely played by Wagner Moura (Narcos, Elite Squad) whose character weighs through the horror with humor and alcoholism. Both Lee and Joel believe in a better country and at the core of the character’s delivery it is felt deeply by both Dunst and Moura in their performances. Living in a world where this team gains their perspective through the photos they take and the stories they write. The film makes unique story weave with the question what would the United States be without a Press searching out the truth.

Sadly, the United States during the rapidly escalating Second American Civil War that has engulfed the entire nation, was between the American government and the separatist “Western Forces” led by Texas and California.

Determined to follow in her idol and begin her career pathway is Jessie Cailee Spaeny (Priscilla, On Basis of Sex) who draws the audience into her learning process and the news of a journalists in a warzone, dodging bullets while maintaining focus, and if possible, framing.

To teach Jessie her process and the price of the truth is the team’s steady hand, Stephen McKinley Henderson (Dune, The Newsroom) as Sammy. Who does well to provide balance and guidance to the team’s training and education of Jessie. The hopeful quest is an interview with the President.

Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation, The Founder) is Wonderfully dramatic yet in so many of his works dominates in comedic roles. Which may bolster his dramatic resume as the President of the United States.

Offerman portrays the President in a manner that indicates a possibly weak and over-run United States government. As viewed by the despised reporting press, a core of characters who view life with the values that rightly mimic the black and white of the nearly dead daily paper. A single item that may keep me in school forever, reading the daily pages of a printed newspaper. (Note: Most College press rooms keep several daily newspapers in print for reading). Who has not loved reading the eclectic nature of the Austin Chronicle while attending SXSW?

Among an ever-varied America that has vastly different zones, the team must pass through in the attempt to get a single interview and picture the one person that can make all of the Civil War, make sense. Shortly, a team of journalists traveled across the United States during the rapidly escalating Second American Civil War that has engulfed the entire nation, between the American government and the separatist “Western Forces” led by Texas and California.

The film documents the journalists struggling to survive during a time when the government has become a dystopian dictatorship and partisan extremist militias regularly commit war crimes in ever-increasing firefights for the war over American soil.

Providing depth to the coverage of these Journalists by including the embedded Journalists Dave and Joy Butler, Dave as portrayed by Jefferson White (Yellowstone, Eileen) and Juani Feliz (Harlem, The Rookie: Feds) respectively.
The film beautifully showed the beautiful life that still can exist within the disaster of a situation, just like he had done with the screenwriting for 28 Days Later. The connection that Garland has with the tales of distance and its connection to the land and nature that occurs along the way is commendable to soften the nature of the story against the madness human horror

Principal photography began in Atlanta on March 15, 2022. By May, production had moved to London. The production budget for “Civil War” was the most expensive film to date for A24.
I fully expect to see this film at next year’s award shows as and thought-provoking conversation. A dialogue that has to happen or the current climate in the US could find us entwined in the storyline of A24’s “Civil War”.

And if at all possible a conversation to recognize the worst of America and reach for the best of America for all who call it home. It was a stunning film that will leave you thinking for days after you view it.

15th Dallas International Film Festival