Civil War, A Review

 

So, we went and saw Civil War Saturday. A ton of hype about this film and I was cautiously optimistic that it would be an interesting story with dramatic elements and a message that, hopefully, wasn’t wokist claptrap.

To say that I was disappointed is an understatement. I won’t spoil the movie, because what you’ve seen in the previews is pretty much the entire movie. There is no explanation for the conflict, no reason why the states are still acting as units, nor why California and Texas are allies while Oklahoma and Oregon as on the same side. In a way that isn’t important. Trying to come up with a semi-logical story around the reason for a conflict isn’t as important as what the story could be…assuming it’s a good story. I mean, I rather enjoy The Purge series of movies. They don’t make any sense, but are fun movies that have interesting characters such that you care what happens to them.

Then we have the characters of Civil War. Kirsten Dunst’s Lee Miller is the central character of the story. She is a hard boiled award winning photojournalist who has cataloged numerous war zones around the world. She is impartially chronicling the horrors she sees through her camera as a warning to the “civilized” world that war is terrible and should be avoided. You’d want to root for her as she reluctantly mentors a young aspiring photojournalist named Jessie (Cailee Spaney) whom I assumed was 12-16 from the previews and if they hadn’t said she was 23 I would have assumed she was a high school journalist. She is Lee from so many years prior with all the passion but lacking the nerve and the sense of age. At one point Lee tells her that she will do something stupid and get herself killed and Jessie asks her, “Will you photograph it?” To which Lee replies…”What do you think?”

The problem with this storyline is that Lee exemplifies the journalist that is totally impartial. She photographs a man who is captured and then shoved into a tire, doused with gasoline and then set on fire while calmly taking photos. Surely an award was won from that, we assume, and it sets up her character as having seen so much horror that she is numb to it now. She praises Jessie for a spectacular shot of a soldier they are with in a firefight, capturing him bleeding out while his leader tries to save him. For both of them the pursuit of the “money shot” is all that motivates them. They aren’t in pursuit of the truth, or history, but rather that image that will win an award or symbolize a conflict. In the end, they are deeply flawed and selfish characters that you come to dislike if not despise by the end.

The two other main characters are Lee’s reporter Joel played by Wagner Moura whom had been in some other shows/movies I’ve seen and been utterly forgettable. His portrayal of Joel is creepy and borderline disgusting at times. Perhaps he is spot on for many journalists…I hope not. Lastly is Sammy (portrayed wonderfully by Stephen McKinley Henderson) the old New York Times reporter who mentored Lee long ago and, frankly, is the best and most likeable character in the entire movie. He is an old school journalist, like Lee is supposed to be, but even after decades of covering the worst conflict in the world, he has not lost his moral compass or his ethics about reporting. At least I got that impression. In the end, he is the hero of the story more so than any other.

Which is the problem with the movie. The plot is weak overall with little explanation of why anything happened. Which means that this should he a story of characters, but, outside of Sammy, they aren’t likeable or admirable. They meet a cross section of people as they travel each with their own sliver of a story, but it also makes it disjointed as opposed to coherent.

What was the purpose of the movie?  Why should anyone see it? I wish I had answers to that question. In a way, perhaps that was the point. That journalists are just as vulnerable to enui as everyone, because they have to report and not get involved. That the natural state of humans is conflict. Or maybe the point was something else that I never considered. It wasn’t overly woke, or if it was it was so subtle that I was able to disregard it. Which goes back to the question…why does this movie exist?  It doesn’t have an overt message. It doesn’t tell a cautionary story. It doesn’t even tell a compelling story. Visually it was decent and the combat scenes were well done, but, for me, that wasn’t enough. I doubt it will be for most people except those of the critical persuasion who will adore this film.

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  1. LC Member
    LC
    @LidensCheng

    I like the majority of the movies that Alex Garland has written. But it seems like he lost his mojo after Annihilation. (The tv miniseries Devs had some potential, but then petered out). Everything he’s done after that has been uninteresting to me. He had so much potential as a director-writer combo when he made Ex Machina. I certainly have no interest in Civil War, given the things I’ve read about it. 

    • #1
  2. DrewInWisconsin, Œuf 🚫 Banned
    DrewInWisconsin, Œuf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    David C. Broussard: She praises Jessie for a spectacular shot of a soldier they are with in a firefight as she captures him bleeding out while his leader tries to save him. For both of them the pursuit of the “money shot” is all that motivates them. They aren’t in pursuit of the truth, or history, but rather that image that will win an award or symbolize a conflict.

    I think I was exactly one day into my first job as a news videographer, when I realized that I was guilty of exploiting a tragedy for a great shot.

    I guess it’s good that it only took me a day.

    Does this movie really want us to see journalists as heroic? In this day and age?

     

    • #2
  3. David C. Broussard Coolidge
    David C. Broussard
    @Dbroussa

    DrewInWisconsin, Œuf (View Comment):

    David C. Broussard: She praises Jessie for a spectacular shot of a soldier they are with in a firefight as she captures him bleeding out while his leader tries to save him. For both of them the pursuit of the “money shot” is all that motivates them. They aren’t in pursuit of the truth, or history, but rather that image that will win an award or symbolize a conflict.

    I think I was exactly one day into my first job as a news videographer, when I realized that I was guilty of exploiting a tragedy for a great shot.

    I guess it’s good that it only took me a day.

    Does this movie really want us to see journalists as heroic? In this day and age?

     

    I’m not sure.  One of the journalists is heroic, but he is the old guy that everyone thinks of as past his prime.  In the end, many thought was no matter how much you dislike journalists, it isn’t enough.

    • #3
  4. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

     I doubt it will be for most people except those of the critical persuasion who will adore this film. 

    Actually, the critics don’t even much like the film, let alone adore it. It’s got tepid reviews from the left, ironically for some of the same reasons it gets tepid reviews from the right: too unrealistic, too few connections to real life political conflicts. 

    • #4
  5. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    • #5
  6. Eustace C. Scrubb Member
    Eustace C. Scrubb
    @EustaceCScrubb

    Glad I went to Sting, the alien mutant spider film instead.

    • #6
  7. Postmodern Hoplite Coolidge
    Postmodern Hoplite
    @PostmodernHoplite

    I have no plans to see “Civil War.” I don’t drop $20+ on a movie unless I have a reasonable expectation of enjoying it. I’m not particularly sympathetic to the “brave journalist speaking truth to power” trope. Furthermore, from what I’ve seen of the trailers, the combat scenes look too foolish and contrived for me to achieve the necessary willing suspension of disbelief to loose myself in the story.

    Maybe if the studio (A24, I think) paid me the cost of the ticket to go see it, I might be persuaded…but I sure as heck don’t want to contribute to this movie’s box office totals.

    • #7
  8. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):

    I have no plans to see “Civil War.” I don’t drop $20+ on a movie unless I have a reasonable expectation of enjoying it. I’m not particularly sympathetic to the “brave journalist speaking truth to power” trope. Furthermore, from what I’ve seen of the trailers, the combat scenes look too foolish and contrived for me to achieve the necessary willing suspension of disbelief to loose myself in the story.

    Have you heard of “Nothing But The Truth?”  That’s worth seeing.

    And of course, “Absence Of Malice.”

    • #8
  9. David C. Broussard Coolidge
    David C. Broussard
    @Dbroussa

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):
    the combat scenes look too foolish and contrived for me to achieve the necessary willing suspension of disbelief to loose myself in the story.

    There is one scene where an AH-64 flies down into a city street in DC.  Not at the top of the buildings, but like about the 2-3rd story.  Then from an intersection fires Hellfires (I assume) at a distance of 20-30 yards. to take out soldiers in a parking garage.  In another scene, they use an M-1 to take out a bunker firing into the bunker from less than 50 meters with dismounted troops in between the tank and the bunker (which is a tower).  The combat scenes were terrible…just awful.

    • #9
  10. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    David C. Broussard (View Comment):

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):
    the combat scenes look too foolish and contrived for me to achieve the necessary willing suspension of disbelief to loose myself in the story.

    There is one scene where an AH-64 flies down into a city street in DC. Not at the top of the buildings, but like about the 2-3rd story.

    Maybe they wanted to remake “Die Hard?”

    • #10
  11. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    David C. Broussard (View Comment):
    There is one scene where an AH-64 flies down into a city street in DC.  Not at the top of the buildings, but like about the 2-3rd story.  Then from an intersection fires Hellfires (I assume) at a distance of 20-30 yards. to take out soldiers in a parking garage.

    Minimum range: 500 meters. The ESAF will hold off until you are that far away before it arms the warhead. It’s best to be a little further away than that, though.

    • #11
  12. David C. Broussard Coolidge
    David C. Broussard
    @Dbroussa

    Percival (View Comment):

    David C. Broussard (View Comment):
    There is one scene where an AH-64 flies down into a city street in DC. Not at the top of the buildings, but like about the 2-3rd story. Then from an intersection fires Hellfires (I assume) at a distance of 20-30 yards. to take out soldiers in a parking garage.

    Minimum range: 500 meters. The ESAF will hold off until you are that far away before it arms the warhead. It’s best to be a little further away than that, though.

    Yeah, I was thinking that same thing to myself during the scene.  They wanted a tight, close, fight where each side could see each other’s eyes…but that doesn’t happen with missiles.  I suppose, they could have figured out how to deactivate that, but IIRC, artillery shells rely on a number of revolutions to arm themselves.

    • #12
  13. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    David C. Broussard (View Comment):
    I suppose, they could have figured out how to deactivate that, but IIRC, artillery shells rely on a number of revolutions to arm themselves.

    Thing about artillery shells, is that at very short ranges the have enough velocity (KE=M*V^2) that it does not necessarily matter if the warhead goes off.

    Thing about rockets is they start out slow, so if they don’t arm and explode they have too little kinetic energy to do much damage. But the fire from the unspent fuel might cause some damage, if it gets inside.

    • #13
  14. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    David C. Broussard (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    David C. Broussard (View Comment):
    There is one scene where an AH-64 flies down into a city street in DC. Not at the top of the buildings, but like about the 2-3rd story. Then from an intersection fires Hellfires (I assume) at a distance of 20-30 yards. to take out soldiers in a parking garage.

    Minimum range: 500 meters. The ESAF will hold off until you are that far away before it arms the warhead. It’s best to be a little further away than that, though.

    Yeah, I was thinking that same thing to myself during the scene. They wanted a tight, close, fight where each side could see each other’s eyes…but that doesn’t happen with missiles. I suppose, they could have figured out how to deactivate that, but IIRC, artillery shells rely on a number of revolutions to arm themselves.

    The Apache can fire Hydra 70 rockets. A precision aiming system is being developed for those. That would require a minimum range (500-1,500 meters). The non-precision aiming system is known as “pointing.”

    • #14
  15. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    But the fire from the unspent fuel might cause some damage, if it gets inside.

    That’s what caused the most damage in the Gaza hospital parking lot, as I recall.

    • #15
  16. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    kedavis (View Comment):

    David C. Broussard (View Comment):

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):
    the combat scenes look too foolish and contrived for me to achieve the necessary willing suspension of disbelief to loose myself in the story.

    There is one scene where an AH-64 flies down into a city street in DC. Not at the top of the buildings, but like about the 2-3rd story.

    Maybe they wanted to remake “Die Hard?”

    Is there any possibility that Civil War is a Christmas movie?  

    • #16
  17. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    David C. Broussard (View Comment):

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):
    the combat scenes look too foolish and contrived for me to achieve the necessary willing suspension of disbelief to loose myself in the story.

    There is one scene where an AH-64 flies down into a city street in DC. Not at the top of the buildings, but like about the 2-3rd story.

    Maybe they wanted to remake “Die Hard?”

    Is there any possibility that Civil War is a Christmas movie?

    Seems like more people equate Thanksgiving with a “Civil War.”

    • #17
  18. Stina Inactive
    Stina
    @CM

    Sounds like Lost City if Z.

    I’m convinced it’s just nihilism and iconoclasm (breaking of tropes).

    It makes for cruddy story telling to combine the two.

    • #18
  19. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Don’t y’all hate when someone starts speaking with the introductory phrase “As a person of XYZ trait, I …” ?

    Sorry about this. As a knowledgeable AI experimenter, I think Alec’s Ex Machina is the product of deep understanding. If you want to know what to be afraid of in AI, see it.

    • #19
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