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Civil War reviews are in - is this the ultimate war epic?

Following its SXSW showing, critics are having their say on Alex Garland's Civil War...

Civil War reviews are in - is this the ultimate war epic?
Andrew Williams
15 March 2024

Alex Garland’s Civil War movie isn’t out for almost a month, but reviews are already here thanks to a film premiere screening at SXSW.

We had hoped Civil War would end up being one of this year’s most compelling big-name movies. And it sounds like that is exactly the case.

American democracy has fallen apart, the country severed into warring factions vying for control of the US.

Kirsten Dunst and Wagner Moura star as journalists looking to get to Washington D.C. alive, when every faction from the government to the separatist factions is hostile to them.

Civil War’s production budget estimates range between $50 and $70 million, making this one of A24’s most expensive movies to date. It’s also Alex Garland’s first mid-budget movie since 2018’s Annihilation. Since then he made Men, a very strange and unsettling film made for significantly less money, and one too many people overlooked.

Civil War needs to get a fairly large audience into cinemas in April. So what do the critics lucky enough to catch Civil War’s premiere think?

Civil War reviews

Most critics say Civil War is a powerful and unsettling film, a vision of a near future that feels all too close. But it also doesn't quite take the perspective or approach you might imagine, being a less blunt instrument than it might have been in different hands.

Civil War reviews are in - is this the ultimate war epic?
Image Credit: Netflix

“It’s the most upsetting dystopian vision yet from the sci-fi brain that killed off all of London for the zombie uprising depicted in 28 Days Later, and one that can’t be easily consumed as entertainment. A provocative shock to the system, Civil War is designed to be divisive,” says Variety.

"A movie, even a surprisingly pretty good one like this, won’t provide all the answers to these existential issues nor does it to seek to. What it can do, amidst the cacophony of explosions, is meaningfully hold up a mirror,” says The Wrap.

It all sounds pretty promising, but it's Polygon's review that makes you think Civil War might not quite be the watch you expect from the trailers. In a positive sense:

"It isn’t what those people will think it is. It’s something better, more timely, and more thrilling — a thoroughly engaging war drama that’s more about people than about politics," says Polygon.

Not everyone is quite so keen on Civil War, though. Rolling Stone's reviewer was left cold by the film, a sentiment seen in a couple of these early reviews:

“It’s feeding into a dystopian vision that’s already running in our heads. Things fall apart, the center cannot hold, etc. So why does this just feel like more of the same white noise pitched at a slightly higher frequency?" says Rolling Stone.

There are still loads of notable critics who haven’t had their say yet. We expect to see their reviews pop up closer to the full release of Civil War on April 12.