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This dystopian drama from the mind of Alex Garland – writer/director of acclaimed works such as Ex Machina, Annihilation and 28 Days Later – presents a thought-provoking and intense portrayal of the realities of conflict.

But the methodical pacing may surprise some cinemagoers.

The film has been receiving some divisive reviews, and I can understand why.

Contrary to its action-packed trailer, Civil War unfolds at a deliberately slow pace, focusing more on the human experiences amidst chaos – rather than explosive battle scenes.

While I personally enjoyed this approach, it might not resonate with viewers seeking a high-octane war film. In fact, I even witnessed two separate walkouts during my screening, which was undoubtedly down to this.

The film is set in a alternative-future America where a team of journalists (played by Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura, Cailee Spaeny and Stephen Henderson) race against time to document the impending chaos at the White House, as an authoritarian US government prepares for battle with various regional militias, including the ‘Western Forces’ of Texas and California.

While the reasons behind the civil war itself remain ambiguous throughout the film (though the internet has many theories), Garland’s focus on the human aspect of war makes this stand out in a cinematic landscape saturated with bombastic epics.

Each main character gives a solid performance, but it’s actually a cameo from Jesse Plemons (Killers of the Flower Moon) as an ultranationalist soldier who steals the show. The actor portrays a chillingly composed xenophobe armed with a rifle.

You probably know of his scene from the trailer, where he confronts the main characters, pressing them with the question: “What type of American are you?” while his finger rests on the trigger. Despite only appearing in the film for approximately ten minutes, he delivers an incredibly intense movie-stealing performance during that brief period.

If you are seeking a blockbuster ‘popcorn’ flick filled with explosive action sequences, you may find yourself disappointed by the film’s introspective nature. But if you’re looking for a character-driven piece, you’ll find an impactfully-rewarding viewing experience.


ESP Rating: 4/5


Mike Clarke

Showcase Cinema De Lux Peterborough, Out Now

Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura, Cailee Spaeny, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Sonoya Mizuno, Nick Offerman & Jesse Plemons

Director: Alex Garland


Go to for all the latest film information & showtimes at Peterborough’s Showcase Cinema De Lux

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