Friday, April 12, 2024

Civil War

A24 man. It messes with you.

This is going to be a loaded review no doubt, and lightyears from the reasons most people would associate ie. politics. The first thing I gotta get out there is pretty pivotal to almost everything I gotta say so allow me to quote a passage that I think sums this movie up, "A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.". Set in the alternate history of a not too distant future we follow a group of war photographers trekking to Washington D.C. to interview the president as, shock I know, a civil war has erupted with several states seceding from the US and it seems the combined forces of Texas and California are making the final push into the capital. The fact so many people I know who got hung up on this whole California×Texas alliance I feel is taking this too literal, and besides positions and politics evolve so it's not precisely in the realm of impossibility. I will admit I'm slightly upset they didn't give a backstory or reason as to why the war started, we're thrown literally at the tail end of this conflict with little information. How long has the war been raging? Why wage a war against the presidency? We certainly get no answers as to what could potentially happen after the end. Now maybe that wasn't truly the point, the film is wholly centered on the dehumanizing effects of war and almost a psychological study on war photographers which in and of itself is a pretty fucked profession. There's almost too much to talk about and I'd hate to forget everything so we may do a lightning round in a bit. First though, cast. I can easily see people criticize Kirsten Dunst as being very flat and monotone, but man if you've seen God knows how many battles and atrocities and war crimes trust me you get a bit friggin' desensitized and detached, she does fine work and it was nice seeing her in a new movie. Wagner Moura is her cohort and is the more aloof and passionate reporter on the matter, seeing it as just another day out in the field. Callie Spaeny plays a teenager who aspires to take up the same profession and tags along for the coverage, and I'll fully admit while I didn't hate it the execution and reasoning for her joining of the party isn't exactly smooth, I know it is to drive a point home but hey Callie killed it. Great as always to see Stephen McKinley Henderson again as the reasonable and cool headed news veteran who undoubtedly is the moral compass of this makeshift family unit essentially. Alright let's snap to and hit some bullet points. Speaking of bullets while far from spectacle or blood soaked this is a tense ass movie and if you see it in theaters I recommend earplugs because those gunshots are visceral and LOUD. You never quite know when the next attack will happen so you're always uneasy and nervous. Next up maybe it's because it's an A24 film but this film gets artsy, I mean black and white still photographs in the midst of gunfights, tranquil shots of nature, a rather mellow and contradictory soundtrack to the intense battlefield that is the States, it commits to that style. As you may know I am aware of next door to nothing about government or politics, so I can only see it as a war film and not some basis or platform to point at the other side in hate. Hell only yesterday did I read the Constitution, the Declaration, the Bill Of Rights, and pieces of the Federalist Papers not even really to get a grasp on this film but because I wanted to know. Could I easily see people point at this film as a massive what if and use it to fearmonger? Easily. But I view it as a cautionary tale, if it scares you it'll scare you to make a better future and world to avoid such an event. Conflict, battles, war, whatever damn name you have for it I find to be the most ineffectual and worthless gesture in the history of humanity. It does nothing and to give one more quote by my favorite Doctor Who, "Because it's always the same. When you fire the first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who's going to die. You don't know whose children are going to scream and burn. How many hearts will be broken. How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill before everybody does what they were always going to have to do from the very beginning! SIT DOWN AND TALK.". It's as simple as that. So view it as a tragedy, as a study into the mindset of people who document such heinous acts of cruelty, and not as some bullshit where a side is right or wrong. It's heavy, unapologetic, and does something no war film ever has that I've at least seen: it doesn't pick a side, it just shows what such a cataclysm does to people. Maybe more informed and knowledgable individuals on the sphere of politics can delve so much deeper into it, but perhaps the simple and unbiased lens is the right way to go. It's highly effective, well directed, maybe not as fleshed out as I would have liked, but a thought provoking and startling piece of cinema regardless. People will talk about it. That's all I really have to say about that. 3 stars, 7.5/10.

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