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Good news, fellow Americans: It’s civil war time!

The violence, praise the Lord, unfurls exclusively on the silver screen, where the tortured protagonists of Alex Garland’s new blockbuster—unimprovably named Civil War—watch America being torn apart in a hail of bullets.

Who’s doing the shooting? Not who you’d expect. Wary of losing at least half of the audience if the film’s politics too neatly mirror our own, Garland gives us the Western Forces, an improbable confederacy of California and Texas. Sweetgreen salads and salsa, Teslas and pick-up trucks, Gavin Newsom and Ted Cruz. The point, the movie insists with every plosive line, isn’t who is doing the fighting; it’s that it could happen here.

The ideological agnosticism is the film’s greatest strength as well as its greatest weakness. If you are able to suspend disbelief for 109 minutes and imagine a world in which journalists working for mainstream publications are still intellectually discerning, emotionally stable, and morally upright, you’ll be treated to a series of tableaus featuring our great republic in various stages of disunion and decomposition. Such scenes are a pleasure, I suppose, for some, particularly those who spend their days clutching their armrests as MSNBC croaks on and on about the dawn of American fascism. But look closely, and Civil War’s absurd politics and meandering plot deliver a larger, more luminous, and wildly hopeful point: Civil war is already upon us, just not in the way Garland and his talented cast would have us believe.

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