'Civil War' movie set in near-future US poses questions about politics and journalism

'Civil War' movie set in near-future US poses questions about politics and journalism

By Hanna Rantala

LONDON (Reuters) - Filmmaker Alex Garland wants "Civil War", a tense thriller about a group of journalists documenting societal collapse as they chase a scoop in a conflict-torn United States, to be a conversation starter.

Set in the near future and both a war film and a road movie, "Civil War" sees fictional Reuters photographer Lee (Kirsten Dunst) and reporter Joel (Wagner Moura) take to the road with the aim of reaching Washington, D.C., before it falls to a rebel faction.

To Lee's dismay, aspiring young photographer Jessie (Cailee Spaeny) and veteran reporter Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson) also tag along for the obstacle-ridden trip from New York.

"It is an anti-war movie, but it's really got two other focuses," Garland said at the film's premiere in London on Tuesday.

"It's a story about journalists and why we need them and what they do. But it's also asking a question, which is why is good journalism not getting the traction? What's gone wrong? And then a very similar question about sort of polarised populist politics, extremist politics."

Taking on the role of Lee, who is worn out from years of covering war zones, was a first for Hollywood veteran Dunst.

"I feel like I haven't played a role like this. And it's nice to have a woman who has this job as a photojournalist be the lead of an action movie about war," she said.

Dunst, 41, drew inspiration from the late reporter Marie Colvin for her performance and familiarised herself with camera equipment.

"She (Colvin) really embodied kind of the qualities I wanted to bring to Lee," Dunst said.

"The thing I wanted to make sure of the most was that my camera looked like part of my hand. That was my biggest worry, that it didn't look authentic."

Garland, director of "Ex Machina" and writer of "28 Days Later" and "The Beach" began writing "Civil War" in 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the lead up to the U.S. presidential election that year.

Writing helped him process the anxiety of the time and address the questions he had.

"I see it as being a film which is trying to have a conversation," he said.

"This is really an audience movie," added Dunst. "It's not telling you what to think. It's not giving you sides. It's really about you, which I think is unique."

"Civil War" starts its global cinematic rollout on April 10.

(Reporting by Hanna Rantala; Editing by Jamie Freed)