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Movie Review – Civil War

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We limit ourselves here at RunPee with only one A++ rating each year, per Peep. I have no qualms about spending my only A++ of the year Civil War.  Alex Garland put on a writing and directing master class in Civil War. Leading up to seeing this movie, I was both looking forward to it and dreading it. After seeing it I’m looking forward to watching it again.

Exposition-degenerate matter

When a large star dies, the outer shell explodes in a supernova. The core collapses into a neutron star. What was once normal matter is crushed into a state called neutron-degenerate matter. You may have heard that a tablespoon of NDM would weight as much as Mt. Everest. It’s strange and exotic stuff.

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There are lines of dialog in Civil War that compress hours of exposition into a short sentence. It’s inspiring. I want to give you a simple example. The crew pull into a local gas station to get gas. In front of the station are men with machine guns. The crew doesn’t have the necessary Local Gas Permit to purchase the gas. Lee (Kirsten Dunst) offers that they pay over the normal amount.

The man with the gun asks, “How much over?”

Lee replies, “300”. The man thinks that’s funny and says, “Lady, 300 will get you a ham or cheese sandwich.”

Lee says, “Canadian.”

The man’s expression changes. He nods his head.

That’s it. There was no need for a minutes-long exposition scene that detailed the economic situation and how the Civil War affected inflation. $300 has become pocket change. $300 Canadian is real money.

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It wasn’t just that line. There are a dozen or more that compress the exposition into memorable lines. I have no doubt that the first draft of the script did indeed have lengthy scenes that existed just to paint the landscape so to speak. But a great writer looks at every scene and asks, “How can I compress this?” That’s how a movie that easily has the material to occupy a 10-part series on TV can be compressed into under two hours.


I have a screenwriter friend who told me, “No actor, no matter how talented, can’t make bad dialog work. But an average actor can make great dialog sing.” This movie has great actors and great dialog. But it’s not just the dialog. The characters are purpose-built to highlight the drama as the story evolves. But an no point do the characters feel like stereotypes. They feel like real people doing a real job in an unreal situation.

Threading The Political Needle

For context, I describe myself as ultra-liberal. I was interested in the political message that might be espoused in this movie. I expected that it had to be liberal, but just how overt would that be is the question. Honestly, I didn’t notice hardly any political leaning either way. In most of the skirmishes, prior to the final battle, you really don’t know which side the reporters are joining. In one scene, they are embedded with civilian soldiers and in another with camo-wearing soldiers. The reporters don’t notice one side or another. They just report. It’s easily summed up by Kirsten Dunst’s line: Every time I sent photos home from civil wars around the world I was saying, “Don’t do this.” And here we are, doing it. For the most part, the movie stays away from politics and to my recollection, the words Republican and Democrat are never mentioned.

However, the end battle is a little less than that. It was clear to me that the President was a stand-in for a Trump-like figure, although not remotely Trump. My feeling is that the movie takes place in an alternate now. There’s no technology to indicate that the story takes place even a few years in the future, and it’s mentioned early in the movie that the US President is in his third term, so that would be at least the 2030s if it were meant to be our future.

I noticed that a man sitting alone a few seats down from us in the theater got up with about 30 minutes to go in the movie and never returned. He didn’t even return his seat to the upright position, so I feel that something angered him. If you’re a Trump loyalist I’m not going to say this movie won’t offend you.

Grade: A++

About The Peetimes: I think the last Peetime is the best of the bunch. And there is just nothing you can miss after that point for the last 40 minutes of the movie.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Civil War.

Rated: (R) NA
Genres: Action
Starring: Nick Offerman, Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura
Director: Alex Garland
Writer(s): Alex Garland
Language: English
Country: United States, United Kingdom

A journey across a dystopian future America, following a team of military-embedded journalists as they race against time to reach DC before rebel factions descend upon the White House.


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4 responses to “Movie Review – Civil War”

  1.  Avatar

    I agree with your review. I’m left, but I really didn’t want the movie to explicitly take sides (some people ARE snowflakes lol). I joke, but I wanted it that way so everyone could, maybe, see themselves in it.

    I also agree that the president was a Trump-like figure (that hair!). If you read the trivia in IMDB the director explicitly says he wanted it to appear neutral, but he also said, he joined California and Texas specifically (for that reason) and that that both states didn’t want a fascist president/government and so joined forces.

    This movie was leaning toward a 7 until the final 30 minutes.

    I live in a blue state. My audience was a wide range of ages. They acted in shock and surprise at the violence. They stayed as the credits rolled and walked out slowly.

    It has one flaw, though. The president would have been hidden down in a bunker for protection.

    1. Good points. I like that the director put Tx and Ca together as a bipartisan vote against fascism. You’re right, the president would have logically been in the bunker. It would be hard to get anyone out of there short of dropping a nuke down the elevator shaft.

  2.  Avatar

    Very emotionally moving at times. More than Oppenheimer I think. Even with the Trump references, it didn’t seem like the movie would offend anyone. The President is barely in it and does what I expect any President in this situation would do: trying to spin the media coverage and look like they are winning.

  3.  Avatar

    I’m neutral politically. I gave this movie a 7, was disappointed that it WASN’T more political because then it might have been more interesting. It seemed like the object of the fighting was just to have fun killing other people. The pic that came into focus at the end is exactly that, huge smiles that the insurectionists killed the president! I don’t know if he deserved it or not because not enough information was given.

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