Civil War (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Over the years, Alex Gardner has pushed the visual boundaries of whatever genre he is playing in.  If we were fearing AI in Ex-Machina, or extraterrestrials in Annihilation or zombies in 28 Days Later, Garland was delivering.  The next real threat? The government is now authoritarian, and regions of the US are now grouping together to rebel.  In, Civil War, we are seeing something almost too real.  I also could not look away.  Find out more about Civil War below.  Does it live up to the hype or does it fizzle under the over-expectation of good reviews? Be sure to click the cover art at the end if you feel so inclined to order a copy for yourself!


There is a civil war going on in America. The time is not said but it appears to be not so distant from now.  Journalists of all types travel the country photographing the war, in spite of the job being beyond dangerous. An authoritarian rule has taken over the country by a third-term president (Nick Offerman) who is preparing for the now regional factions of the US, namely the Western Faction (California and Texas) to come storm the white house looking for him.  There is a deadline and Lee Smith (Kirsten Dunst) and her friends Joel (Wagner Moula) and Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson) have banded together to get to DC in time to photograph and interview the president as the event is taking place.

The thing is, in Washington DC, Journalists are at times the biggest enemy, and they’re always a target. Going to DC is a bad idea, and worse still as the group takes in Jesse (Cailee Spaeny) who is young and ambitious, looking to become a war photographer like Lee. Joel and Sammy are ok with Jesse tagging along, but Lee is not, mostly because she immediately feels protective of her. The moment the two women meet, Lee is providing care to Jesse.  They are cordial but you can feel Lee hoping that this will be a one-time meeting. Things between the photographers improve as they learn more about one another as they go from place to place.

Place to place, as it happens, is almost always a shocking experience.  The journalists encounter a gas station being overseen by citizens who charge insane prices for the gas and are holding bloodied hostages in the car wash.  We see a demented Christmas village where shooters are fighting against other citizens who never even see one another.  And most astoundingly, we are treated to a racist gunman and his cohorts creating a genocide right on American soil. Bedlam is the best way to describe it. As an audience, we cannot look away.

What most people will say about Civil War is that it feels entirely possible.  I can’t help but to completely agree.  The amount of realism I feel radiating from this film is very sobering.  We are at a precipice in our country’s timeline where things are dangerously close to going backwards. Rights are being threatened and our freedoms are close to being compromised. It’s scary. It’s like witnessing past unsavory history.  Alex Garland has captured fear in these frames. There is no way someone can watch this film and not have strong feelings, no matter their politics, no matter their orientation, no matter their race or gender.  The message in the film is undeniable – Without some way to get together, even if we disagree, we may face a civil war just like the one depicted in the film, and this viewer would hate to see this as the reality.

And to close out the review, I can think of nothing better than to say that I am grateful to Alex Garland for his bravery in making this film.  I am also enamored with Kirsten Dunst, Cailee Spaeny, Wagner Moura and Stephen McKinley Henderson for embodying their characters with bravery, vulnerabilities and emotions.  And the film itself – It’s an exercise in how to make a film look huge on a smaller budget, with gorgeous cinematography, excellent editing and locations/set design.  These points all add to the reality basis that makes the film so invaluable right now.  You couldn’t see a timelier film than this one, and somehow, despite being scary and somehow seeming so very possible, you couldn’t see a more engrossing and entertaining film as this either. Highly recommended viewing.


Note: Stills are provided for promotional use only and are not from the 4K UHD Blu-ray

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-100

HDR: Dolby Vision

Clarity/DetailCivil War comes home with a picture perfect 4K transfer.  The overall look of the film is sharp looking, yet muted color wise. Detail is evident in clothing textures as well as interiors or cars or in the varied landscapes of war torn states.  We don’t have the disservice of seeing softness as everything remains in clear, beautiful focus.

Depth:  The scale of Civil War is huge. We are always looking at a wide open and spacious frame as we move from scene to scene and even in its most claustrophobic moments, especially in the press car, we feel the spaciousness radiate from the screen.

Black Levels: Natural and crush free, blacks sing in this transfer.  We never have a degradation of detail and the blacks do bring out the best in the other colors as well. The climax at the White House is a masterclass on what shadow detail really looks like when it’s top notch.

Color Reproduction: Greenery and fire colors are the color highlights of the film, but by design.  The greys and blues are complimentary to the tone of the film, and there of course are many instances of brown from the landscapes in which the journalists travel.

Flesh Tones: Skin tone looks as it should – natural and complimentary.  I didn’t witness anyone looking amiss or a mess in any moment of my viewing.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.


Audio Format(s):  English Dolby Atmos, English Descriptive Audio, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

DynamicsCivil War’s stellar video transfer is given more life thanks to an excellent Dolby Atmos mix.  Dynamically, the sound field takes you into the battles, the chases and even the quiet moments. During a battle sequence we hear a large explosion and then have a moment of silence. We can’t hear, just as the characters on-screen are not supposed to be able to hear too. We hear everything outdoors and even in closed spaces, the sound space is wide and open.

Height: Helicopters wiz past you, as do bullets and echoes from above. The heights aren’t always active, but when they are it’s at full level excellence. The mix is immersive but does not always have a panning effect, giving a static aesthetic, however this is not a hindrance.

Low Frequency Extension: Boombastic blasts come from the subwoofer as we fight through to Washington DC.  Aircrafts, gunshots, grenades and more activate and shake the room.

Surround Sound Presentation: Surrounds carry echoes, ambience, background sounds in battle and all the customary surround sound necessities, filling the space and putting you in the middle of the action.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is spot-on for the whole runtime.


The 4K Disc for Civil War comes bundled with a Blu-ray and digital code. Amazon offers the film with an alternate cover. The sole extra on the disc is a multi-part documentary, Torn Asunder: Waging Alex Garland’s Civil War, on the making of the film that runs just under an hour. Just like the film, the documentary is eye-opening and excellent. If you’re going to have only one extra, this is a good one!


Civil War truly blew me away. At once a timely statement of what could be, and a harrowing piece of action/thriller filmmaking, you will be on edge watching the film and worried for the principal characters the whole time. Even if the film is a hard pill to swallow, it’s also an entertaining and fully engrossing film that in this format is an unbeatable viewing experience. Alex Garland and his cast and crew have truly created something special here, and one will hope that the film finds even more of an audience with viewers at home.

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