Civil War | Filmology With Spoken Nerd

What kind of American are you? 

May is here and for some, this is the most exciting time of the year to hit the cinema. We just caught the latest Ghostbusters flick and as we await the Deadpool and Wolverine team-up, we are offered a film that A24 marketed as one that you must see in the IMAX, it’s their version of a summer blockbuster. I cannot think of a more appropriate summer movie in an election year than Alex Garland’s Civil War 

Obviously inspired by the political extremism that the U.S. has seen in the last several years, Civil War offers the vision of a dystopian future for America, articulated through the perspectives of a group of journalists. While it is vague, exactly what has happened to lead to this, it seems that Florida, California, and Texas have succeeded from the union and the president is fighting a losing battle against these forces. This group of journalists have set out on a dangerous journey to the white house with the intention to interview the president before he inevitably meets his demise.   

Despite its themes of desperation and uncertainty, the film is somewhat void of emotion. The journalists follow self-serving motives for a majority of the movie, obsessed with publishing their next story. Jessie, portrayed by Cailee Spaeny, is a young photographer who looks up to the group’s photographer, Lee Smith who is played by Kristen Dunst. The group corrects Jessie when she expresses moral dilemmas in the field and mentors her in the science of neutrality of the press. In this instance, the film shows us the characters’ devotion to their craft. They are depriving themselves of opinions and agendas outside of their journalistic fervor. There are moments where they put their necks out for each other, so humanity is not lost but the attachment to crafting a breaking story reigns above all else.  

One of the most interesting elements of the narrative is the relationship between Jessie and Lee Smith. Initially, Lee is annoyed by this young girl, who has conned her way into their group. While Lee sees the problematic nature of having another liability on this dangerous mission, she also cannot seem to stray away from leaning into her mentor role. She gives her the opportunity to take some great pictures and expresses care to Jessie. All of this is done with a poker face and dry discourse.  

While the film was lacking in emotion, it seems that this was intentional. The story leaves the viewer in the dark about what has happened to lead to this dystopia. The only glimpse that we are given as viewers is what we see through the characters. The greatest emotional conduit in the flick is Joel, who is played by Wagner Moura. In one scene he is upset beyond control about an event that would affect the world in a remarkable way. Of course, the reason he is upset is that he is afraid that he has missed his chance to make his story happen.  

A lot could be said about Civil War. One thing that most of us can probably agree on is that this is not the film that we were expecting. One thing that I love about Alex Garland is his ability to take unexpected angles while straying away from the obvious. Much of this film is left up for interpretation and it is successful in making the audience think. At the end of the day, this is one of the most thought-provoking films that I have seen this year and I cannot wait to see what Garland does next.  

About Nathan Conrad:

He’s best known as the Nashville-based Hip Hop/Indie Pop emcee Spoken Nerd, but this isn’t your typical rap project. He rhymes playfully at times, singing and/or rapping, juxtaposing his style with real-life situations and subject matter. Occasionally Spoken Nerd will find inspiration in films and will put it into song. With eight full-length albums into his career, the rapper has built a healthy catalog of music, which doesn’t include the number of EPs and singles released. His most recent release is Magical Powers.

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