‘Civil War’: What you need to know about A24’s dystopian action movie

Kirsten Dunst holds a camera in her lowered hand while another hangs off her backpack in "Civil War."
Kirsten Dunst stars as a photojournalist in Alex Garland’s dystopian action movie “Civil War.”

A24’s “Civil War,” the latest film from “Ex Machina” and “Men” director Alex Garland, imagines a third-term president ruling over a divided America and follows the journalists driving through the war-torn countryside on a mission to land his final interview. The movie is pulse-pounding and contemplative, as the characters tumble from one tense encounter to the next and ruminate on the nature of journalism and wartime photography.

In his review of the film, The Times’ Joshua Rothkopf wrote, “‘Civil War’ will remind you of the great combat films, the nauseating artillery ping of ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ the surreal up-is-down journey of ‘Apocalypse Now.’ It also bears a pronounced connection to the 2002 zombie road movie scripted by its writer-director Alex Garland, ‘28 Days Later.’”

Starring Kirsten Dunst and Cailee Spaeny as photojournalists, alongside Wagner Moura and Stephen McKinley Henderson (and a scene-stealing, nerve-racking Jesse Plemons), the film carries a reported production budget of $50 million and has already started to recoup the costs at the box office, earning $25.7 million in ticket sales in its first weekend in North America.

“Civil War” has also been a discourse juggernaut. Conversation on social media has focused on the lack of context given for the conflict at the heart of the film. In a recent column, The Times’ Mary McNamara wrote that “forcing the very real political divisions that plague this nation into vague subtext doesn’t even serve the purported pro-journalism nature of ‘Civil War.’”

Catch up on our coverage of the film below.