Movie Reviews

What Caused The Civil War In A24's New 2024 Movie?

WARNING: SPOILERS for Civil War ahead.


Summary

  • Civil War takes a bold look at a near-future scenario where Texas and California unite against a corrupt President, veering away from the traditional dynamics of US politics.
  • The film focuses on the impact of war on characters rather than the political specifics, delivering an antiwar message that transcends typical divisions.
  • Journalists play a key role in the resistance against a tyrannical government in Civil War, promoting the importance of truth in times of conflict.


Following the highly anticipated release of Alex Garland’s latest film Civil War, key elements of the fictitious modern American Civil War were finally revealed. Garland’s ambitious film was produced by popular independent production company A24 in what can be considered its first action blockbuster effort. With a reported budget of roughly $50 million, Civil War marks a bold expansion for A24 from its traditional brand of independent content, which has become a staple of the modern cinematic landscape. Civil War’s early box office success puts it on track to become one of A24’s most profitable releases.


Civil War’s cast is led by Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura, Cailee Spaeny, Jesse Plemons, and Nick Offerman a tyrannical United States President. Civil War offers a hypothetical near-future scenario in which 19 states secede from the country. The Western Forces, led by the unlikely alliance of Texas and California, have militarized under a new American flag with two stars as opposed to 50. There is also the Florida Alliance who are depicted in battle with the Loyalist state of South Carolina in the film and play a major part in the violent D.C. showdown in Civil War’s ending.


Why The US Is Fighting Itself In Civil War

The Western forces fight against a fascist President gone rogue

Offerman’s President has disbanded the FBI, used military force against American citizens, and has refused to give up his executive power by disavowing the system of checks and balances.


The reasoning behind the seemingly bizarre alliance of Texas and California in the film is an indication that the war isn’t over Democrat and Republican politics but more about Offerman’s corrupt three-term Presidency. The United States federal government has disavowed its allegiance to the United States Constitution and is now held under the budding dictatorship of Offerman’s tyrannical President. Offerman’s President has disbanded the FBI, used military force against American citizens, and has refused to give up his executive power by disavowing the system of checks and balances that the United States has been built on since its inception.


The Western Forces of California and Texas likely seceded illegally in Garland’s Civil War to combine their strength against Offerman’s fascist President. They enlist the help of the Florida Alliance in their military efforts to storm the Capitol and overthrow Offerman’s reign. Although Civil War could have taken a more theoretical stance on the exact reasoning for the United States to become so divided, such as a crisis of resources or a political impasse, Garland offers very little rationale behind the origin of the war other than Offerman’s fascist character.

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How The United States Is Divided In A24’s Civil War Movie

The Western Forces & Florida Alliance led the military efforts against D.C.

A24 Civil War map

A Western Forces military camp shown in
Civil War
appears like it’s part of the United States Army but flies the two-star Western Forces flag, indicating just how large the WF military has grown.


Nearly the entire East Coast except Florida remained a part of the United States based on the official Civil War map. The westernmost states that have not seceded are Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado, which adds an interesting dimension of conflict for the Western forces, who fight these loyalist states on either side. The southernmost state on the East Coast that has not succeeded in Civil War is South Carolina. Alaska and Hawaii are also loyalist states but are both likely to be more neutral parties since they are geographically so far from the mainland United States.


The Western forces were able to acquire military-grade helicopters, humvees, weapons, and supplies in Civil War. A Western Forces military camp shown in Civil War appears like it’s part of the United States Army but flies the two-star Western Forces flag, indicating just how large the WF military has grown. The aerial bombings at the start of Civil War were orchestrated by the President against his own citizens, meaning that there were advanced resources on both sides. The New People’s Army has a minor role in the overall conflict but is implied to be storming the Capitol alongside the WF at the end of the film.

Who Started The Civil War In A24’s Movie

The anti-democratic decisions of Offerman’s President lit the fuse

Nick Offerman as the President of the United States in the 2024 film Civil War.

The Western Forces of Texas and California chose to bear arms under a new flag to preserve the true identity of the United States, which Offerman’s President had effectively destroyed.


The theoretical Civil War in Garland’s movie is a result of Offerman’s totalitarian President going rogue and disobeying the United States Constitution which only permits any President from serving two 4-year terms. By refusing to abide by the Constitution, the President had set a dangerous precedent that is essentially un-American, which has caused a national outcry to the point of succession and the forming of militias. In a way, the actions of the United States citizens in the film are quite American, considering the circumstances of the American Revolutionary War that gave birth to the country in 1776.


The Western Forces of Texas and California chose to bear arms under a new flag to preserve the true identity of the United States, which Offerman’s President had effectively destroyed. Pair his abuse of power with his unhinged decisions to disband the FBI and order air strikes on American citizens, and naturally, a civil war ensues. If there is one person to blame for the start of the Civil War in Garland’s cautionary film, it’s unquestionably Offerman’s President. His death at the end of the movie is crucial because he represents the source of the entire conflict.

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Which Side Are Civil War’s Main Characters On?

The journalists don’t have a firm political stance in Civil War

Kirsten Dunst as Lee with a camera while wearing a press vest in Civil War

The journalists were on the frontlines with the Western Forces and Florida Alliance, which says without saying that they were more on the side of the resistance than Offerman’s totalitarian America.


The main characters in Civil War, played by Dunst, Moura, and Spaeny, are photojournalists who are trying to capture the events as objectively as possible. Journalists were getting killed in Washington D.C., which implies that naturally they view the President as the enemy and feel more comfortable with the Western Forces. Throughout Civil War, the journalists were on the frontlines with the Western Forces and Florida Alliance, which says without saying that they were more on the side of the resistance than Offerman’s totalitarian America.

In order to protect their status as neutral parties and documentarians, Dunst, Moura, and Spaeny’s characters classify themselves as merely shooting the cameras, not the guns. Their initial objective was to interview the President in D.C. before the Western Forces initiated their all-out attack on the Capitol, which then allowed them to use the protection of their military to gain access to the Capitol so they could try to continue doing their jobs. With Dunst being from Colorado, and Spaeny being from Missouri, both loyalist states, they had more ground to stand on against Plemons’ opportunistic American soldier than Moura, who was from Florida.


Why Civil War Doesn’t Directly Confirm What Started The War

Garland doesn’t make the film about a realistic political conflict

Wagner Moura as one of the journalists screaming with a tank behind him in Civil War

One of the biggest questions before the release of Civil War was how the politically opposite Texas and California came to be unlikely allies against the federal government, a subject that the film didn’t really address.

While some viewers may feel like Garland missed an opportunity with Civil War to present a realistic near-future scenario to add to its stark and frightening imagery, the film was more centered on the effects of the war on its characters than the actual circumstances of its unsettling premise. One of the biggest questions before the release of Civil War was how the politically opposite Texas and California came to be unlikely allies against the federal government, a subject that the film didn’t really address. Offerman’s fascist rule is truly the only explanation for the war, which makes Civil War’s story more universal than specific to the United States.


Speaking with Time, Garland explained that Civil War was not intended to make political statements or paint a too close-to-home portrait of a feasible scenario of a divided America. “There’s a lot of films that tell everything to everyone and make everything completely digestible. I’m not particularly interested in doing it because it feels oppositional to engagement. ‘Left vs. right’ closes down the conversation. That is the problem with polarization.” What’s most clear about Civil War is that it’s entirely antiwar, making the specifics of who is fighting for what less significant to the overarching themes of A24’s action epic.

Explaining What Caused The War Misses The Point Of Civil War

Civil War focuses on how its fictional war impacts its characters

Wagner Moura as Joel Grimacing in Civil War 2024


Civil War
was told through the lens of the journalists on the battlefield who were more focused on capturing the war than making sense of it.

While many viewers may have expected Civil War to be a full-on war movie based on its trailers, title, and IMAX release, the film ended up focusing more on the characters and their role as journalists than the politics behind the hypothetical war. With Civil War, it appears that Garland was not as interested in presenting a highly specific and detailed scenario of the implosion of modern American society as Sam Esmail’s Leave the World Behind was. Ultimately, Civil War was told through the lens of the journalists on the battlefield who were more focused on capturing the war than making sense of it.


Some viewers may find the lack of specificity about the war and politics of Civil War frustrating. For the story that Garland ended up telling, one that focused on how the war affected the characters more than how the characters impacted the war, the supplemental information that would have added to Civil War’s backstory would have ultimately deterred its message. The scene in which the two snipers are taking aim at each other sums up the point of Civil War succinctly: “We’re shooting at them because they’re shooting at us.” Politics and philosophy don’t come much into play otherwise.

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