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Civil War

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It’s telling that the two war photographers at the center of Alex Garland’s story say they have parents back home in the heartland who are pretending that the civil war that is raging right here in the No Longer United States of America (the reasons for it are unclear and unimportant, but maybe the President shouldn’t have disbanded the FBI) is not happening. Because if your harrowing images of human conflict and suffering, obtained at great personal risk and even greater personal cost, can’t even rouse Mom and Dad to belief — let alone concern, let alone action — well then, what exactly is the status, what exactly is the point, of the media? Why are you wading into the horror — no, not wading, plunging, immersing yourself in the very worst of humanity? We get it, you’re good journalists: you’re here to get the story, not to take sides. But really, why? Weary Lee (a scowling but sympathetic Kirstin Dunst) isn’t quite sure any more, but she’s still game to join gung-ho Joel (Wagner Moura) on a mad dash to D.C. in an attempt to interview a President who might just have them shot on sight, since he views journalists as the enemy. (At least Joel is honest about his motivations: combat gets him hard, and even after it hits too close to home, he stays on task.) What Lee didn’t count on was bringing newbie Jesse along for the ride (an impossibly tiny Cailee Spaeny); Jesse with her old-school camera and new-kid eagerness. “If I got shot, would you take a picture of it?” she asks, wonderingly. “What do you think?” snaps Lee. Unlike this review, Garland keeps the thinky stuff in the background and concentrates on the brutal, intimate action — like a good war photographer should. (2024) — Matthew Lickona

Rated R | 1.0 hour, 49 minutes
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