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A24’s Civil War trailer will have you wondering what the hell Alex Garland is thinking

Annihilation and 28 Days Later writer brings gloom and doom to US politics

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

The next film from the director of Annihilation, Ex Machina, and Men looks like a bad time at the movies. Civil War is writer-director Alex Garland pivoting from the intimate, provocative horror of Men to explosive, politically charged dread. The first trailer of Civil War, released Wednesday by A24, hints at what the studio is calling “an adrenaline-fueled thrill ride through a near-future fractured America balanced on the razors edge.”

Our first look at Civil War is full of flash and arresting imagery: a two-star American flag, representing the seceding states of California and Texas (yes, kind of an odd pairing!); militarized forces blowing up the Lincoln Memorial, with machine gun fire flooding the night sky of Washington, D.C.; and Jesse Plemons in fatigues and hot pink sunglasses, giving us the brand of chilling sociopath he plays so well.

A24 and Garland seem to be intentionally opaque when it comes to what Civil War is about, or rather what it’s trying to say. And given Garland’s recent work, it feels engineered to evoke discussion as moviegoers leave the theater after ingesting an unclear, unhappy ending. From that perspective, Civil War feels like a compelling, if distressing watch — especially in the year 2024, with a doomy presidential election forecast and increasing fracture in the U.S.

Civil War stars Kirsten Dunst, Cailee Spaeny, Wagner Moura, and Stephen McKinley Henderson as a team of journalists covering the war, with Nick Offerman as the President of the United States of America. It hits movie theaters (including IMAX) on April 26, 2024.

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