“Civil War” may be the most incendiary film of the year. Alex Garland believes it to be merely news.

NEW YORK (AP) — Films directed by Alex Garland have brilliantly portrayed a pandemic brought on by a virus (2002’s “28 Days Later”), an artificial intelligence gone wild (2014’s “Ex Machina”), and, in his most recent work, “Civil War,” a near-future America engulfed in full-scale conflict.

With a resume like that, most directors could argue they have a talent for capturing the spirit of the times. Garland, though, doesn’t think so. He claims he’s coping with everyday realities that don’t require any significant changes in perspective. In 2020, as COVID-19 was causing societies all over the world to fall apart, he composed “Civil War,” a fear that was on everyone’s mind.

Garland remarks, “That was pretty deafening back then.” Thus, it’s a little bit beyond zeitgeist. In actuality, it is oppressive.

“Civil War” is a menacing attempt to transform popular fears in America into a bloody, scary big-screen reality. On Friday, the anniversary of the Civil War’s start in 1861, Garland’s movie will be released. And it could be Hollywood’s most incendiary film of the year, opening in theaters only months before a historic presidential election.

The release of “Civil War” has been eagerly anticipated for months due to a number of intriguing trailers. Are California and Texas in sync? “Science fiction,” a commenter stated. “This one movie had the best eight-year marketing campaign of all time,” another person remarked.

A24 shared this picture of Kirsten Dunst and Cailee Spaeny in a scene from “Civil War.” (A24 via AP) CONNECTED PRESS

However, “Civil War” is significantly more ambiguous than its sober title suggests. Garland wrote and directed the movie, which isn’t clearly aimed at the divisiveness of today. California and Texas have allied against a fascist president (Nick Offerman) who has snatched a third term and abolished the FBI in a conflict that has already wreaked havoc across the nation.

A group of journalists, including Wagner Moura, Cailee Spaeny, and Kirsten Dunst, moves in the direction of Washington, D.C. The visceral experiences of war — bombings, firefights, and executions — on modern American land account for a large portion of the film’s unease. (“Civil War,” primarily shot in Georgia to take advantage of tax savings.) For everyone who has been wondering, “How bad can it get?” in recent years, a worry indicated by certain polls is as roughly 40% of the populace — this is a depressing response.

Hollywood has occasionally attempted to reflect, channel, or profit from political unrest in previous election seasons. The “Most Dangerous Game” parody “The Hunt,” from Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions, depicts liberals kidnapping “rednecks” and “deplorables” so they can hunt on a private preserve, ahead of the 2020 election. The movie was delayed when it attracted a lot of criticism from the right (at the time, President Trump claimed it was “made in order to inflame and cause chaos”). Upon its eventual release in theaters in March 2020, “The Hunt” unveiled a more nuanced critique of both the left and the right than initially anticipated.

A24 shared this picture of Kirsten Dunst and Cailee Spaeny in a scene from “Civil War.” (A24 via AP) CONNECTED PRESS

Though there have been rumors on the internet over whether the date of “Civil War” was acceptable, controversy hasn’t yet attached itself to it. That may have been caused by Garland’s methodology. The movie makes very few overt references to the most severe divisions in American politics today. Any distinction between “red states” and “blue states” is eliminated when Texas and California are combined. Income disparity and race don’t seem to be dividing factors. The political party of the president is not stated.

Dunst remarked, “I had never read a script like this,” during the movie’s SXSW debut. “And this was the first movie I had ever seen.”

Despite being set in the near future, “Civil War” has more nuanced parallels to the fractious political and cultural divisions of today. What type of American are you? is a question that the major characters are asked while they are questioned by a depraved militant played by Jesse Plemons. The location of the 2017 white supremacist event in Charlottesville, Virginia, is referred to as a battle front even though it is never visible.

When questioned about the decision, Garland says, “The film is just reporting.”

However, the filmmaker admits that it was difficult to get the correct balance.

Indeed, Garland admits, “it was a (expletive) delicate balance.” “We gave it some thought,

we discussed it, we talked about what was appropriate. Look, the plan is to make a compelling and engaging film, and the product of the compelling and engaging film is a conversation. So the questions are: How do you make sure that you’re not dismantling a conversation in the first part of that equation?”

That led to Garland foregrounding “Civil War” with journalists. As much as anything, Garland’s film is about the central role reporters play in capturing critical events in lethal conditions. Unbiased reporting, Garland says, has been eroded. In “Civil War,” it’s literally under attack.

“What I wanted to do was present journalists as reporters,” Garland says. “They may be conflicted, they may be compromised as individuals, but they’re holding on to an idea of journalism.”

“Civil War,” which had a $50 million production budget, is the biggest A24 movie to date. The independent film studio is striving to broaden the audience for its critically acclaimed films and go beyond arthouses (“Civil War” will be shown on IMAX screens). Ironically, “Civil War” is an attempt to appeal to a larger audience.

“It’s not really me who’s that bold,” remarks Garland. “I believe that is A24’s property. You would discover that attempts to create these movies are always being made. Whether they have received the assistance needed to make them is the question.

The filmmaker emphasizes that “Civil War” is not a forecast, but rather a possibility. Even so, Garland witnessed an uprising unfold on live television as a throng stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, months after he completed writing it. He wasn’t thinking about his script at the moment.

Garland says, “I had this really strong feeling that this is a disgrace.” Over time, some of that resentment was channeled into the project. Not really in terms of rewriting dialogue, scenes, or anything else. has more to do with motivation coming from within. Something that appeared farther away suddenly became closer.

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